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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 38

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-6

Jer 38:1-6

Jeremiah 38:1-4

THE DEATH OF JEREMIAH DEMANDED

And Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchijah, heard the words that Jeremiah spake unto all the people, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, He that abideth 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, and his life shall be unto him for a prey, and he shall live. Thus saith Jehovah, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it. Then the princes said unto the king, Let this man, we pray thee, be put to death; forasmuch as 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.

The leader of this delegation to the king, Shephatiah, is unknown except for what is written here. Pashur is the prince who cast Jeremiah into the stocks in Jeremiah 21. All of these appear to have been bitter enemies of Jeremiah.

Let this man be put to death...

(Jeremiah 38:4). From the ordinary viewpoint, this delegation appears to have been justified in their demand for the execution of Jeremiah; because, certainly, they were accurately reporting exactly what Jeremiah had prophesied; and there cannot be any doubt that such prophecies had destroyed the morale of the whole population, including that of the soldiers.

Was Jeremiah, then, a traitor? Did he deserve to be put to death? Indeed, NO. The whole nation of Israel was a theocracy, their first allegiance belonging to God, as revealed by his servants the prophets. Their "sinful kingdom," from its inception was a rebellion against God and was thus foreordained to destruction. The real welfare of the nation lay in their repentance and return to the God of their fathers who had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The dire extremities in which the nation, at this time, found itself could have been alleviated if the people had heeded Jeremiah.

As Henderson noted, "The princes might have been correct in accusing Jeremiah of rebellion (1) IF he had not provided incontestable evidence that he held a divine commission, (2) and IF the government itself had not been in a false position." Zedekiah himself, as a sworn servant of the king of Babylon, was the real traitor in their current situation; and he had completely betrayed the interests of his own nation by entering into a rebellion against Babylon, contrary to the will of God and totally impractical.

Jeremiah was no glib supporter of those in political power, supporting "his country right or wrong!" "He so loved his country that he was not content until it became the embodiment of the highest social, moral, and spiritual ideals; and he was a splendid example of the enlightened type of patriotism so badly needed today."

Jeremiah 38:5-6

And Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand; for the king is not he that can do anything against you. Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchijah the king’s son, that was in the court of the guard: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire; and Jeremiah sank in the mire.

As noted above, this is impossible to reconcile as a variable account of that same imprisonment where Jeremiah stayed "for many days." Why don’t the critics tell us which account is true, and which is false? The answer lies in human unbelief of what the holy Scriptures say.

The king is not he that can do anything against you...

(Jeremiah 38:5). What an admission on the part of a man who was called a king! As Smith noted, it is a statement that, All power is in your hands, and you are ready to exercise it against the king’s wishes. All of the real power lay in the hands of the princes; and the king himself had little respect from them. Many of the people, including, no doubt, some of the princes, really wanted to defeat Babylon and bring back Jeconiah from Babylon as the king they really wanted.

Imprisoned by the Princes Jeremiah 38:1-6

The imprisonment in the court of the guard afforded Jeremiah the opportunity to communicate the message of God once again. He seems to have been able to converse with the soldiers who defended the city as well as with the general populace (cf. Jeremiah 32:9; Jeremiah 32:12). Meanwhile the final stage of the siege of Jerusalem had come. It was only a matter of days until the city would fall to the Chaldeans. The princes, highly displeased with the leniency being shown the prophet, watched his every move. Four princes in particular seem to have been particularly bitter enemies. Shephatiah is mentioned only here. The second prince named is Gedaliah. His father Pashur is probably the one who had put Jeremiah in the stocks earlier in his ministry (Jeremiah 20:1-2). Jucal (or Jehucal) was one of the princes sent by the king only a few weeks before to request Jeremiah to pray for the city. Pashur was one of the messengers of the king who had visited Jeremiah in an earlier interview (Jeremiah 21:1).

There in the court of the guard Jeremiah openly proclaimed the message he had been preaching ever since the Chaldean armies had first appeared in the land. Those who defected to the Chaldeans would escape with their lives; those who remained within Jerusalem were doomed (Jeremiah 38:2) for the Lord would shortly give the city into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 38:3). The princes were both alarmed and angered by such public proclamation. They rushed to Zedekiah and demanded that Jeremiah be put to death for high treason.

The charge against Jeremiah, that he weakened the hands of the men of war, is no doubt an accurate assessment of the impact of the preaching of Jeremiah. The phrase “men of war that remain” suggests that many had gone over to the Chaldeans (see also Jeremiah 38:19). The public statements of the prophet could well be classified as treason were it not for one fact. The words which Jeremiah spoke were not his own but the divine message which he had been charged to proclaim. It was Yahweh, the true sovereign of Israel, who was instructing and commanding His subjects to capitulate to the Chaldeans. The predictions of Jeremiah thus far had proven to be accurate thereby accrediting Jeremiah as a true spokesman of God. Only those who were spiritually blind could fail to see that Jeremiah was truly speaking the word of God.

For what they regarded as treason the princes demanded that Jeremiah be put to death (Jeremiah 38:4). The struggle against the Chaldeans was literally a matter of life and death. In the view of these princes Jeremiah by his public stance against further resistance was playing into the hand of the enemy. They would let the people perish rather than surrender! Now they were attempting to silence the only voice of reason and revelation in the entire city, How wrong they were when they declared that “this man is no longer seeking the welfare of the people but their hurt” (Jeremiah 38:4). Jeremiah was the only true friend which the people had left.

Weak-kneed Zedekiah capitulated to the demands of his princes. “Behold he is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you” (Jeremiah 38:5). What little influence Zedekiah might previously have had over his princes had eroded. He is only a puppet in their hands now. He does not even attempt to argue the point with them. What a cowardly abdication of responsibility! What a shameful betrayal of duty!

Having gone through the formality of gaining the consent of the king, the murderers hurried Jeremiah off to his doom. They did not want his blood on their hands!

Their plan was much more cruel. They cast Jeremiah into I cistern which served as a dungeon. This particular cistern, located in the court of the guard, was under the charge of Malchiah the son of Hammelech (lit., the son of the king), Malchiah seems to have been a member of the royal family if not a son of Zedekiah himself. So deep was the cistern that they had to let Jeremiah down into it with ropes. Though there was no water in the cistern the bottom of it was covered by a thick layer of mud. Slowly the prophet sunk into the mire. The pitiless princes wished this spokesman for God to die a slow, torturous, and frightful death. Unbelief makes men intolerant of God’s spokesmen; intolerance makes men cruel. There they left him. They were. rid of him. They had effectively silenced God’s messenger.

The dungeon experience is without question the lowest point in the life of Jeremiah. He was now aged and perhaps infirm. The siege and famine in Jerusalem had doubtlessly taken its toll. Yet it should be noted that no word of protest is lodged, no cry of revenge, no prayer of imprecation. Through the long bitter years of his ministry Jeremiah had learned the way of patient endurance. He had learned to cast himself upon the Lord and trust Him for deliverance.

Verses 7-13

Jer 38:7-13

Jeremiah 38:7-13

AN ETHIOPIAN RESCUES JEREMIAH

Now when Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch, who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon (the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin,) Ebed-melech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king, saying, 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 in the place where he is, because of the famine; for there is no more bread in the city. Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die. So Ebed-melech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence rags and worn-out garments, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. And Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now these rags and worn-out garments under thine armholes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so. So they drew up Jeremiah with the cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

Ebel-melech the Ethiopian...

(Jeremiah 38:7; Jeremiah 38:10; Jeremiah 38:12). Three times here the fact of Ebel-melech’s being an Ethiopian is expressly mentioned. Why? It indicates that in all the land of Judah only a despised foreigner found the grace to intercede for Jeremiah!

A eunuch...

(Jeremiah 38:7). There is no need for men to define this as merely a prominent official in the government. The Hebrew text shows that the word (eunuch) is to be taken in its proper meaning, and not in the metaphorical sense of an officer of the court. There is nothing strange about a eunuch’s being in the court of Zedekiah. Since the king had many wives, a eunuch was the overseer of the harem; and as the Mosaic law forbade the castration of a Hebrew (Deuteronomy 23:2), Zedekiah’s eunuch was an Ethiopian.

Take thirty men. and take up Jeremiah .....

(Jeremiah 38:10). The radical critics suppose that was too many men to take, and Against the authority of all the versions of the Hebrew text, and solely upon the appearance in the Septuagint (LXX) and a single manuscript of the number three in this place have changed the number. The king, knowing what was needed, both for the task itself, and for protection of the rescue group, sent thirty men; and there is no need whatever to allow fallible, unbelieving men, to change the sacred text upon any whim they might have. Why were so many needed? At least four men would have been needed to pull Jeremiah up from a mud-bath reaching up to his neck. One or two men would have been needed to go get the ropes; two more would have been necessary to get the rags and worn-out garments; and one, Ebel-melech the Ethiopian would have commanded the operation. The others, fully armed, would have protected the rescue mission from all interference by the princes. We are still waiting for some radical critic to explain how all of this could have been done with three men!

The providence of God in this rescue of Jeremiah is very evident. "On that day when the greatest of the Benjaminites (Jeremiah) was in his greatest need, the king was already in the Gate of Benjamin, as if waiting to hear his case."

Speaking of the specious arguments vainly proposed in favor of changing the number in this mission from thirty to three, Keil stated that. "The arguments are quite invalid"; and Feinberg declared that, "Such slight evidence is insufficient to overrule the MT, and only this kind of hypercriticism would call in question Biblical numbers on such grounds."

Rescued by Ebed-melech Jeremiah 38:7-13

God had not forgotten His faithful prophet. He still had a service to render to his King. That dungeon would not become a death chamber for Jeremiah. God stirred up the heart of a negro eunuch who was attached to the court of Zedekiah to take pity upon the prophet and to intercede on his behalf. When Ebed-melech heard of the imprisonment of Jeremiah he was filled with righteous indignation against the princes and courageous compassion with regard to the prophet. Ebed-melech—whose name means “servant of the king”—must have been a friend and follower of Jeremiah. He was an Ethiopian eunuch doubtlessly in charge of Zedekiah’s harem. Ebed-melech was putting his position if not his life on the line when he rushed to the gate of Benjamin to plead for the life of Jeremiah. What amazing courage this humble man was able to muster in the face of a gross injustice to a friend.

As he stands before the judgment seat of the king the Ethiopian slave humbly (“My lord, the king”) and yet forcefully made his case. He accused the princes of absolute wickedness in their plot against the man of God. He pleaded that he might be permitted to rescue Jeremiah before he died of hunger and exposure (Jeremiah 38:9). Knowing the age and infirmity of the prophet Ebed-melech is confident that Jeremiah is already at death’s door in that dismal dungeon. There must have been a note of urgency in the appeal of this noble servant as he pleaded for the life of his friend. Ebed-melech has been charged with exaggeration when he said “there is no more bread in the city.” He probably meant no more than that the public stores of grain were exhausted. As a royal servant he probably would have some knowledge of this. His point is that Jeremiah should be released since there would be small chance that any of the scanty provisions left in the city would reach Jeremiah in the place where he was confined.

Zedekiah may have been shocked to learn what the ruthless princes had done with Jeremiah, While he had relinquished all authority in the case and had turned the man of God over to his adversaries the king had probably assumed that the princes would at least be humane in their treatment of Jeremiah. His own guilty conscience no doubt had been bothering him ever since he had told those princes “Behold he is in your hand.” Now he attempts to right the wrong which he had committed. He pants permission for Ebed-melech to rescue Jeremiah from his place of imprisonment. Lest the princes try to forcibly prevent the rescue operation, Ebedmelech is instructed to take thirty men to assist him. Zedekiah knew enough of his princes to realize that a show of force would be necessary under the circumstances.

Armed with royal permission to rescue the prophet, Ebed-melech hastened to the task. On his way to the court of the guard he stopped at the royal house (not necessarily the king’s residence) which was under the national treasure house. There he gathered some old rags and then hastened on to the cistern where Jeremiah was confined. At the mouth of the cistern he let these rags down to Jeremiah by ropes telling the prophet to pad his armpits with them before securing the ropes around his chest. How thoughtful and gentle this deliverer! The suction of the mud and the weight of Jeremiah’s body would serve to put tremendous strain under the arms. The rough ropes would have cut deeply into the flesh of the old man. But Ebed-melech had taken all this into consideration and now instructs the prophet to protect himself against it. Slowly, ever so gently, Ebed-melech and his men hoisted the helpless prophet to light, fresh air, solid earth and a measure of freedom (Jeremiah 38:13). Jeremiah remained a prisoner in the court of the guard until Jerusalem fell to the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 38:28).

Verses 14-28

Jer 38:14-28

Jeremiah 38:14-16

PRIVATE MEETING OF ZEDEKIAH AND JEREMIAH

Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third entry that is in the house of Jehovah: and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me. 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, thou wilt not hearken unto me. So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As Jehovah 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.

The third entry into the house of Jehovah...

(Jeremiah 38:14). Nothing is definitely known about this entry into the temple. It was probably an entry from the palace into the temple; and it must have been a private place, else it would not have been chosen for this interview.

As Jehovah liveth, that made us this soul...

(Jeremiah 38:16). This very unusual addition to the formula of a oath was no doubt intended to strengthen it ... For the usual formula, see 1 Samuel 20:3; 1 Samuel 25:16. By his acknowledgment here that God had made his soul, Zedekiah also implied his belief that God continued to have power over it.

Jeremiah 38:17-23

JEREMIAH’S MESSAGE TO ZEDEKIAH

Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If thou wilt 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 thy house. 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. And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen away to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me. But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of Jehovah, in that which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well with thee, and thy soul shall live. But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that Jehovah hath showed me: 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 familiar friends have set thee on, and have prevailed over thee: [now that] thy feet are sunk in the mire, they are turned away back. And 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.

Significantly, the message of Jeremiah to the king in this circumstance was exactly the same as it was given in Jeremiah 21:8-10.

Why did Zedekiah not heed the prophetic warning of Jeremiah? He feared the taunting mockery of the Jews who had already defected to Babylon; but Jeremiah revealed here that if he did not heed God’s Word, he would be even more severely taunted by the members of his household, his extensive harem being mentioned here.

One of the reasons why Zedekiah refused to believe Jeremiah might have been the fact that Ezekiel had prophesied that Zedekiah should never see Babylon, Josephus has the following.

"Zedekiah did not believe their prophecies for the following reasons: (1) it happened that Ezekiel and Jeremiah agreed with one another in what they had said in all other things, that the city should be taken, and that Zedekiah himself should be taken captive; but Ezekiel disagreed with Jeremiah, and said that Zedekiah should not see Babylon, while Jeremiah said to him, that the king of Babylon should carry him away thither in bonds (Ezekiel 12:13)."

Thus, Zedekiah was only another sinner who fancied that he had found a contradiction in God’s Word! Well, we know what happened. He went to Babylon just like the prophets said, but he never saw the place because Nebuchadnezzar slew his sons before him and then put out his eyes! This wicked king was neither the first nor the last to make the same mistake.

Long before Zedekiah, the wicked Ahab also believed that he had found a contradiction in God’s Word. Elijah the Tishbite prophesied to Ahab that in the same place where the dogs had licked up the blood of Naboth, namely the vineyard of Naboth where the pool of Samaria was located, and in which the harlots bathed themselves, there in that very place, the dogs would lick up the blood of Ahab. Three years later, another prophet of God, Micaiah, prophesied that Ahab would fall in battle at Ramoth-Gilead. (See 1 Kings 21:19; 1 Kings 22:20-37). A clear contradiction, right? So Ahab went on up to Ramoth Gilead, was struck by a random arrow, bled all day, fell at Ramoth-Gilead; and then the soldiers took the blood-soaked chariot to the old site of Naboth’s vineyard and washed it out by the pool of Siloam where the harlots bathed; and the dogs licked up Ahab’s blood in the very place where he had murdered Naboth, just like the prophet had said.

Today, when sinners excuse themselves for not heeding the Word of God on the grounds that they think the Bible contradicts itself, they are doomed to the same kind of disappointment.

This picture of the transfer of Zedekiah’s harem was a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem; because, "In those times, a conquering king customarily took over the harem of a defeated monarch."

Jeremiah 38:24-28

ZEDEKIAH PLEDGES JEREMIAH TO SECRECY

Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die. 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: 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 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 Jeremiah abode in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken.

My supplication. that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house, to die there .....

(Jeremiah 38:26). The mention of Jonathan’s house in this passage is alleged to support the notion that only one imprisonment is in view in these two chapters; but such a view is a total misunderstanding.

This was a master-stroke on the part of Zedekiah. By the mention of Jeremiah’s petition not to be sent back to Jonathan’s house, the princes would have concluded immediately that Zedekiah, displeased with their placement of Jeremiah in the miry cistern, had told Jeremiah that he would send him back to the house of Jonathan where Jeremiah would have been silenced as in the second imprisonment; and they would have instantly supposed that this "second plea" of Jeremiah not to be sent back to the house of Jonathan was a response to Zedekiah’s threat, a threat that never took place at all, but from this misunderstanding of the real nature of Jeremiah’s supplication, doubtless caused them to accept what they understood as Zedekiah’s action as compatible with what they desired.

Thus Jeremiah told nothing but the truth, but not all of the truth, and it served the wishes of both Zedekiah and Jeremiah perfectly. We have yet to find the writing of any scholar which acknowledges what to us is the perfect explanation of this episode.

We have no patience whatever with "scholars" who criticize the "ethics of Jeremiah," suggesting that perhaps he told a lie on this occasion. Nonsense! Jeremiah obeyed his king, which he was honor bound to do; what he said was absolutely true. Of course, it was not "the whole truth," but Jeremiah was under no oath nor any responsibility whatever to tell those crooked murderers the "whole truth." It was not Jeremiah’s error that his supplication not to be sent back to the house of Jonathan had occurred at the end of the second imprisonment, and not at the end of the third.

One may only marvel at the genius of Zedekiah who arranged this skillful deception of the crooked princes who were his bitterest enemies.

Keil and many other commentators have pointed out that Jeremiah 38:28 here actually belongs to Jeremiah 39, and "forms the introductory sentence of the passage ending in Jeremiah 39:3."

Interviewed by the King Jeremiah 38:14-26

Shortly after Jeremiah’s rescue from the cistern King Zedekiah summoned him for another interview. The situation in Jerusalem had further deteriorated since the two men had faced each other before. Provisions in the city were exhausted. Chaldean battering rams continued to relentlessly pound the walls of Jerusalem in spite of all the defenders did to drive them off. It would only be a matter of weeks and a breach would be made in the walls and the enemy would come pouring through to completely overwhelm the faint and sickly inhabitants. Surely now in this desperation there would be hope from the Lord. Surely now that Zedekiah has permitted Jeremiah to be rescued from sure death the prophet would have some kind word. How completely the king misunderstands this messenger from God. Those who unflinchingly preach the word of God will always be a source of perplexity and bafflement to those who live by the rule of compromise and accommodation.

The prophet was taken to the third entrance of the Temple. Streane suggests that this was a chamber connected with a passage leading from the palace to the Tempie. It may be identical with that which is elsewhere called “the king’s entry” (2 Kings 16:18). It must have been a somewhat secluded spot. There, probably in the darkness of night, Zedekiah urged Jeremiah to honestly answer his petition—not to withhold anything (Jeremiah 38:14). The king was frantic; desperation was in his voice. He wanted to know the final issue of the siege.

Jeremiah knew the king really did not want to hear what he had to say. Somewhat sarcastically he said, “If I tell you will you not put me to death? and if I give you counsel you will not hear me" (Jeremiah 38:15), The last clause of Jeremiah 38:15 is not a question in the Hebrew but a simple declarative sentence. Jeremiah knew from his five past interviews with the king that his message would not be accepted. The desperate king then swore that he would not harm Jeremiah nor permit the princes to do so (Jeremiah 38:16). The form of the oath is somewhat unique. “As the Lord lives who made this soul.” The Hebrew word nephesh here as usual in the Old Testament means “life.” Since God was the creator of life it was within His power to take it away, if the speaker should prove untrue to his word. Convinced that Zedekiah was sincere in his oath, Jeremiah delivered the word of the Lord to him. It is the same message which Jeremiah had presented to king and people on numerous occasions: liberty and life are yours if you surrender to the Chaldeans; defeat and death lay ahead if you continue to resist (Jeremiah 38:17-18).

Zedekiah had certainly pondered the alternative of surrender. This tortured little weakling now confided in Jeremiah the reason why he had elected to hold out in Jerusalem until the bitter end. “I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand and they mock me” (Jeremiah 38:19). Zedekiah feared that those Jews who earlier had deserted to the enemy would be especially severe with him because he had caused the city to endure the miseries of a siege. How contemptible! A man who feared the Jews in the camp of the enemy more than the God who time and again had demanded his allegiance. A man who put personal welfare about the welfare of his people.

Jeremiah immediately assured the king that his fears regarding the Jews on the outside would not be realized if he would but surrender. “I beseech you,” says the prophet, “obey the voice of the Lord.” If you will only surrender all will be well with you! (Jeremiah 38:20). On the other hand Jeremiah warned Zedekiah that if he resisted the Chaldeans to the bitter and inevitable end the very members of his own household would turn upon him in unsympathetic mockery. Jeremiah pictures the women of the harem—the wives and concubines and their attendants—marching out of the city as captives of the Chaldeans chanting a proverbial taunt-song aimed at Zedekiah. Essentially the same proverb appears in Obadiah 1:7.

“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)

This taunt-song pictures one naively being led by those he trusted out into a swampy bog, and when he has become mired in the muck they have gone back instead of helping him. The “friends” are of course Zedekiah’s princes and counselors who had urged him on in the hopeless struggle and then are unable to suggest any course of action which would extricate the king from his difficulties. The phrase “set thee on” (KJV) perhaps is better rendered “deceived” as in the Revised Standard Version.

The fifth and final conference between Zedekiah and Jeremiah ends with a strong emotional appeal to the king. The prophet makes three final points. If Zedekiah continued to resist the Chaldeans (1) he would shortly see those he held most dear—his wives and children—being led out as spoils of war to the enemy soldiers; (2) he himself would not escape from the hand of Nebuchadnezzar; and (3) the king through his obstinacy would have to bear the ultimate responsibility for the destruction of Jerusalem as though he himself had set the torch to the beloved city (Jeremiah 38:23). These are strong and daring words which Jeremiah spoke. He knew it was his last chance. Perhaps for the sake of his wives and children, for the sake of his own life, for the sake of the holy city and its thousands of inhabitants Zedekiah would heed at last the word of the Lord.

Questioned by the Princes Jeremiah 38:27-28

The interview with Jeremiah closed, not with the king accepting and acting upon the word of the prophet, but with a request that the princes not be told of the conversation. “Let no man know of these words and you shall not die” (Jeremiah 38:24). The king carefully instructed Jeremiah as to what he should say if the princes interrogate him. Jeremiah should tell them that he had petitioned the king not to cause him to return to the dungeon in the house of Jonathan to die there (Jeremiah 38:25-26). The precautions of the king were well taken for shortly the princes pounced upon Jeremiah, probing him with questions about the interview with the king. Jeremiah calmly answered them as he had promised the king. It was the truth as far as it went. Jeremiah did not tell the inquisitive princes the whole truth nor was he obligated to do so. Those princes did not have a right to know the full contents of the privileged conversation between the king and his spiritual counselor. To withhold information from those not entitled to it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be construed as falsehood. By speaking this half-truth Jeremiah protected not only himself but the monarch as well. Jeremiah’s answer seemed to satisfy the princes and they did not broach the subject to him any more “for the conversation had not been overheard” (Jeremiah 38:27). Without further harassment Jeremiah was permitted to remain in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was captured by the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 38:28). The intention of this verse is merely to account for the whereabouts of Jeremiah up to the date of the capture of the city without making any assertion beyond that date. Actually it was some four weeks after the fall of the lower city of Jerusalem before Nebuzaradan arrived with instructions to free Jeremiah. Perhaps Nebuzaradan was present to direct the final assault on the upper city. This cannot be ascertained for certain. The last clause of Jeremiah 38:28 as it is rendered in the King James Version is an impossible translation of the Hebrew. Actually this clause should be the introductory clause of chapter 39. At several places in the English versions bad chapter divisions have been made. The student should remember that the Scriptures were not originally written in chapters and verses.

Jeremiah in Prison - Jeremiah 37:1 to Jeremiah 38:28

Open It

1. What story of a dramatic rescue has stayed in your mind? Why?

2. How have you coped with news that wasn’t what you wanted to hear?

Explore It

3. How did Zedekiah become king of Judah? (Jeremiah 37:1)

4. What request did Zedekiah make of Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 37:2-3)

5. What is revealed about the city of Jerusalem at the beginning of this story? (Jeremiah 37:5)

6. Despite the fact that the situation seemed to be looking up, what bad news did Jeremiah tell the king? (Jeremiah 37:6-8)

7. Why was Jeremiah put in prison? (Jeremiah 37:11-15)

8. What question did the king ask Jeremiah in secret? (Jeremiah 37:17)

9. How did Jeremiah answer the king? (Jeremiah 37:17)

10. On what basis did Jeremiah plead his case with King Zedekiah? (Jeremiah 37:18-20)

11. Where did the king order that Jeremiah be held instead of the dungeon in Jonathan’s house? (Jeremiah 37:21)

12. What did some of the officials find out that Jeremiah was telling the people? (Jeremiah 38:1-3)

13. What punishment did the officials propose to the king? (Jeremiah 38:4)

14. How did the king respond to the officials’ demand? (Jeremiah 38:5)

15. Where was Jeremiah’s place of imprisonment? (Jeremiah 38:6)

16. Who appealed to the king on behalf of Jeremiah? (Jeremiah 38:7-9)

17. What happened in response to Ebed-Melech’s appeal? (Jeremiah 38:7-13)

18. Where did Jeremiah stay after his rescue? (Jeremiah 38:11-13)

19. Why was Jeremiah hesitant to answer the king’s request to give him a straightforward answer? (Jeremiah 38:14-15)

20. After Zedekiah had sworn not to harm him, what did Jeremiah reveal about God’s plans? (Jeremiah 38:16-18)

21. Why was Zedekiah afraid to obey God and surrender to the Babylonians? (Jeremiah 38:19)

22. What specifics did Jeremiah tell the king about what would happen if he did, or didn’t, obey God? (Jeremiah 38:20-23)

23. Because it was dangerous for them to have talked, what did Zedekiah tell Jeremiah to say when he was questioned about his conversation with the king? (Jeremiah 38:24-26)

24. Where was Jeremiah when the city of Jerusalem was captured? (Jeremiah 38:28)

Get It

25. Where were the people of Jerusalem looking for help against the Babylonian siege?

26. Why was Jeremiah so unpopular with the officials of Jerusalem and the temple?

27. How was Jeremiah taking action on his own prophecy about the future when he was apprehended by his enemies?

28. When has obedience to God required you to make a decision you knew would be unpopular with others?

29. What contributes to a climate in which God-respecting people are harassed, mocked, ridiculed, or even harmed?

30. What are people acknowledging when they turn to God in times of confusion or trouble?

Apply It

31. How might you be able to plead the case of a helpless person in the weeks to come?

32. What step can you take this week toward developing the faith to obey God even when His will is not necessarily what you want?

Questions On Jeremiah Chapter Thirty Eight

By Brent Kercheville

1 What is God’s message (Jeremiah 38:1-3)? Read Deuteronomy 28:20-24 and Leviticus 26:23-26.

2 What were the people to understand from Jeremiah’s prophetic message?

3 What happens to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:4-6)?

4 What does Zedekiah do? Is this surprising after his actions in chapter 37?

5 Then what does Zedekiah do (Jeremiah 38:7-13)? What do we learn about this king?

6 Explain the conversation between Jeremiah and Zedekiah (Jeremiah 38:14-28). What is happening? Why the

secrecy?

TRANSFORMATION:

How does this relationship change your relationship with God?

What did you learn about him?

What will you do differently in your life?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Jeremiah 38". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/jeremiah-38.html.
 
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