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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 38

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 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,

Then Shephatiah. — Here was aliud ex alio malum, one affliction on the neck of another. Matters mend with us as sour ale doth in summer, said Bishop Ridley once, when he was prisoner. Poor Jeremiah might well have said so, if ever any, as appeareth by this chapter, where we find him in a worse hole than was that of Jonathan; but his extremity was God’s opportunity.

Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah, … — These four princes here named to their eternal infamy were no small men, as appeareth in that the king was not he that could do anything against them. Jeremiah 38:5 The grandees of the world are greatest enemies usually to the truth. Little they had to say against his doctrines; they quarrel with his affection, as a perturber of the public peace. Jeremiah 38:4

Ahab charged the like crime upon Elijah; the Jews upon Christ, and afterwards upon Paul; the heathen persecutors upon the primitive Christians; the heretics still upon the orthodox, that they were seditious, antimonarchical, …

Verse 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.

Thus saith the Lord, He that remaineth in the city. — This is the self-same truth which he had preached before, and for the which he suffered. See Jeremiah 21:9 . He is constant to his principles, and although it be commonly said and seen that he who receives a courtesy sells his liberty; yet it was not so with this holy prophet. He had received some enlargement, and care was taken by the king that a piece, or a roll of bread should be brought him daily to the prison out of the baker’s street: but that stoppeth not his mouth.

Verse 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.

Thus saith the Lord. — And as long as the Lord saith so, I must say so too, whatever come of it. Jeremiah 1:9-10

Verse 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.

For thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war. — Thus out of carnal policy is piety impugned. So 1 Kings 12:27 John 11:48 Jeremiah 38:1 .

Verse 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.

Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand.O nihil regem, qui ne verbulo quidem cruentis viris obluctatur! O king of clouts, saith one, who, knowing the prophet’s innocence and these princes’ blood thirstiness, durst not say a word for him or against them! This inconsistancy of his, and impotence of spirit, proceeded merely from diffidence and distrust in God.

Verse 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.

Then took they Jeremiah. — Whom the king had now (against his conscience, as afterwards Pilate dealt by Jesus), either through fear or favour, betrayed unto his deadly enemies; and so he was in a pitiful plight, in a forlorn condition. But Jeremiah, de profundis, out of the deep called upon God (whom he found far more facile than these princes did Zedekiah), "Thou drewest near," saith he, "in the day when I called upon thee; thou saidst, Fear not." Lamentations 3:57 I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon.

And they let down Jeremiah with cords. — With a murderous intent there to make an end of him privily, ut ibi praefocatus moreretur; ille vero usque ad collum mersus ibi manebat, said Josephus, that he might there pine and perish; but God graciously prevented it.

And in the dungeon there was no water but mire. — A typical hell it was, worse than Joseph’s pit, Genesis 37:24 or Heman’s lake, Psalms 88:6 or any prison that ever Brown the sect master ever came into, who used to boast that he had been committed to thirty-two prisons, and in some of them he could not see his hand at noonday. He died at length in Northampton jail, A.D. 1630, whereto he was sent for striking the constable requiring rudely the payment of a rate. Fuller’s Church Hist., 168.

So Jeremiah sunk in the mire. — Up to the neck, saith Josephus, and so became a type of Christ. Psalms 69:2

Verse 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;

Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian. — But a proselyte, and a religious prince; a stranger, but (as that good Samaritan in the Gospel) more merciful than any of the Jewish nation, who gloried in their privileges. See Romans 2:26-27 .

One of the eunuchs. — And eunuchs, say the Rabbis, are ordinarily more cruel than other men; but so was not this Cushite. Piety is the fountain of all virtues whatsoever.

Which was in the king’s house. — As Obadiah was in Ahab’s, Nehemiah in Artaxerxes’s; some good people in Herod’s; Luke 8:3 and Nero’s; Philippians 4:22 Cromwell and Cranmer in Henry VIII’s.

The king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin. — Sitting in judgment, where Jeremiah’s enemies had once apprehended him for a fugitive, but durst not try it out with him, though Ebedmelech there entreated with the king for him in the presence of some of them, as it is probable.

Verse 8

Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king, saying,

Ebedmelech. — Not more the king’s servant (so his name signifieth) than God’s. Joseph of Arimathea was such another, who went boldly to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. Faith quelleth and killeth distrustful fear.

Verse 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.

My lord the king, these men have done evil. — What a brave man was this, to oppose so many princes, and so potent that the king himself dared not displease them! It was God’s holy Spirit that put this mettle into him, and gave him the freedom of speech. Psalms 119:46

And he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is. — Or, Who would have died for hunger in the place where he was.

For there is no more bread in the city.Cum panum annona sit pauca et parca. What need he to be doubly murdered?

Verse 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.

Then the king commanded Ebedmelech. — A sweet providence of God thus to incline the heart of this effeminate, cruel, inconstant, and impious king, to hearken to the motion, and to give order for the prophet’s deliverance from that desperate and deadly danger. A good encouragement also to men to appear in a good cause, and to act vigorously for God, notwithstanding they are alone, and have to encounter with divers difficulties.

Take from hence thirty men with thee. — Four or fewer might have done it; but perhaps the princes with their forces might have endeavoured to hinder them, but that they saw them so strong.

Verse 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.

So Ebedmelech took the men with him and went. — The labour of love that this Ethiopian performed to the man of God is particularly and even partly described, for his eternal commendation, and all men’s imitation.

Verse 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.

Put now these cast clouts. — Hence some gather that the prophet was put into this loathsome hole naked, or very ill clad at least. The fathers allegorise this story to set forth the vocaation of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews.

Verse 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.

So they drew up Jeremiah with cords. — And God was not unrighteous to forget this their work and labour of love. Hebrews 6:10 Jeremiah 39:17-18

And Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison. — Manacled and fettered, as some R. David, Vatabl. gather from Jeremiah 40:4 .

Verse 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.

Then Zedekiah … took Jeremiah into the third entry. — Which was right over against the king’s house. This wretched king was so overawed by his counsellors that he dared not advise with God’s prophet in their presence, or with their privity.

Verse 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?

If I declare it unto thee. — It is for the sins of a people that a hypocrite reigneth over them. Job 34:30 Such a one was Zedekiah; and the prophet here freely reproveth him for his hypocrisy.

And if I give thee counsel, will thou not hearken? — Or, And though I advise thee, thou wilt not hearken to me. Thou art set, and hast made thy conclusion beforehand.

Verse 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.

So the king Zedekiah sware secretly unto Jeremiah. — But what credit was to be given to his oath, who was notoriously known to be a perjured person, as having broken his oath of fidelity to Nebuchadnezzar?

As the Lord liveth, that made us this soul. — Hence the truth of that assertion is cleared up unto us, that men’s souls drop not down from heaven, nor are propagated by their parents, but are created by God, and infused into their bodies.

I will not put thee to death, neither will I, … — The former part of the prophet’s condition he sweareth to perform, but saith nothing to the latter, as having no such liking to it. So many come today to hear, who resolve to practise only so far as they see good.

Verse 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:

If thou wilt assuredly go forth. — Jeremiah was semper idem, one and the same still; no changeling at all, but a faithful and constant preacher of God’s Word.

Verse 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.

But if thou wilt not go forth. — See Jeremiah 32:39 . Thus Zedekiah hath it both ways, that it may abide by him; but he was uncounselable and irreclaimable.

Verse 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.

Then Zedekiah said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews. — Thus hypocrites will at one time or other detect themselves, as Zedekiah here plainly declareth that he more feared the loss of his life, honour, wealth, …, than of God’s favour and kingdom; so do the most among us. Pilate feared how Caesar would take it if he should release Jesus. Herod laid hold on Peter, after he had killed James, that he might please the people. The Pharisees could not believe, because they received glory from men. This generous king cannot endure to think that his own fugitives should flout him; but to be ruled by God, and his holy prophet advising him for the best, he cannot yield. Thus still vain men are niggardly of their reputation and prodigal of their souls. Do we not see them run wilfully into the field, into the grave, into hell? and all lest it should be said they have as much fear as wit.

Verse 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.

They shall not deliver thee. — This the good prophet speaketh from the mouth of the Lord, to cure him of that causeless fear, and to bring him to a better obedience; but it was past time of day with him to be wrought upon by anything that could be spoken, though never so well.

So it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live. — This is also the voice of the gospel, and the result of all the promises.

Verse 21

But if thou refuse to go forth, this [is] the word that the LORD hath shewed me:

Bat if thou refuse to go forth. — Promises and threatenings make an excellent mixture; the tartness of the one giveth us better to taste the sweetness of the other.

Verse 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.

And, behold, all the women that are left. — These shall mock thee and make songs of thee, exagitantes regem socordissimum, for a simple and sorry man, who hath undone them altogether with himself, by listening to flatterers and false prophets.

Thy feet are sunk in the mire. — In the mire of misery, where the prophet’s unworthy usage in the miry dungeon is hinted, and the king twitted with it, as some hold. Some again think that Zedekiah in his flight did run into some quagmire, where he was taken.

And they are turned away backward. — Thy flatterers have now left thee in the lurch.

Verse 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.

So shall they bring out all thy wives and thy children. — Or, Thy women (whether wives or concubines, that crew of wanton creatures) and thy sons; for his daughters were left behind. Jeremiah 41:10 ; Jeremiah 43:6 If, therefore, thou hast any care of those that are, or ought to be, most dear unto thee, be ruled by me.

And thou shalt cause this city to be burnt with fire. — Heb., Thou shalt burn this city:

Quicquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi.

Verse 24

Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die.

Let no man know of these words,Muliebriter deprecatur rex incredulus fidelem. Thus he who feareth not God, feareth his own servants and counsellors.

And thou shalt not die. — The crafty king would seem to be solicitous of the prophet’s safety, but mainly intendeth his own.

Verse 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:

But if the princes hear. — In such fear stood he of his princes, and might truly say, as the Assyrian once did, Are not my princes altogether kings? Isaiah 10:8 or as the Emperor of Germany did, I am king of kings, meaning that the princes of his empire would do what they wished for all him. Zedekiah was only an image of a king.

Verse 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.

Then shalt thou say unto them, I presented my supplication. — This was to tell part of the truth only (which might lawfully be done), and not to tell an officious, or at least an oblique lie, as some would make it to be.

Verse 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.

So they left off speaking with him.Indigni utique qui ultra monerentur. The princes were far worse than the king, In una impietate solum stabiles. who yet himself was one of the best. They therefore were slain by the Babylonian princes, when the king’s life was preserved, though with the loss of his eyes, which yet might be a means to open the eyes of his mind.

Verse 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.

So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison. — Which now God had made to him a sanctuary of safety, and a very Bethlehem, or house of bread. God can easily turn a prison into a paradise, and brown bread and water into manchet and wine, as he did to the martyrs. One of them dated his letter thus, From the delectable orchard of the Leonine prison.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/jeremiah-38.html. 1865-1868.
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