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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 37

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



The Egyptians having raised the siege of the Chaldeans, king Zedekiah sendeth to Jeremiah to pray for the people. Jeremiah prophesieth the Chaldeans' certain return and victory: he is taken for a fugitive, beaten and put in prison: he assureth Zedekiah of the captivity. Intreating for his liberty, he obtaineth some favour.

Before Christ 598.

Verse 1

Jeremiah 37:1. Made king Zedekiah was but a tributary king, having taken an oath of homage to the king of Babylon. He was not so bad as many of his predecessors, though he was feeble, irresolute, and had but little credit and little religion.

Verse 5

Jeremiah 37:5. Pharaoh's army was come forth Zedekiah, contrary to the oath that he had taken to Nebuchadnezzar, made an alliance with the king of Egypt, and contracted with him for assistance against the king of Babylon; accordingly the king of Egypt sent an army to his relief, which obliged the Chaldeans to raise the siege of Jerusalem, in order to fight this Egyptian army. Calmet is of opinion, that the Pharaoh here mentioned was the Apries of Herodotus, called Hophra in Scripture. See ch. Jeremiah 44:30. Instead of They departed, we may read, They were forced to depart.

Verse 12

Jeremiah 37:12. To separate himself, &c.— That he might have there a possession for himself with the people. Houbigant; who understands this with the Chaldee as relating to the possession of Anathoth, which Jeremiah had purchased by the command of God. Others read it variously thus: To withdraw himself from among the midst of the people;—or, thence to take rents among his people.

Verse 13

Jeremiah 37:13. Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans The ground of this accusation was, the prophet's having foretold that the Chaldeans should take the city, and exhorted the Jews to submit to them.

Verse 15

Jeremiah 37:15. Wherefore the princes, &c.— And the princes, &c.

For they had made that the prison There is nothing extraordinary in making the dwelling-house of a great man a prison, according to either the ancient or modern manners of the east. See Genesis 39:20. Even in the royal palace itself we find there was a prison; ch. Jeremiah 32:2. Mr. Harmer (Obs. ch. 8 Obs. 37.) gives the following passage concerning eastern prisons, out of a manuscript of Sir John Chardin. "The eastern prisons are not public buildings erected for that purpose, but a part of the house in which their criminal judges dwell. As the governor or provost of a town, or the captain of the watch, imprison such as are accused in their own houses, they set apart a canton of it for that purpose, when they are put into these offices, and choose for the jailor the most proper person they can find of their domestics."

Verse 16

Jeremiah 37:16. When Jeremiah was entered, &c.— But Jeremiah was brought into a deep and secret dungeon. Houbigant. From comparing this place with ch. Jer 38:6 it seems likely that the dungeon was a deep pit, sunk perpendicularly like a well, in the middle of the open court or quadrangle, around which the great houses were built; and that in the sides of it, near the bottom, were scooped niches, like the cabins of a ship, for the separate lodgment of the unfortunate persons who were let down there. Hence also it may be, that the same word בור bor, is frequently put for the grave; the ancient repositories of the dead being often constructed with niches in the same manner, in which the bodies were placed separately. Accordingly we read, Isaiah 14:15. But thou shalt be brought down to the grave, to the sides of the pit. See the Hebrew.

Verse 19

Jeremiah 37:19. Where are now your prophets "Where are now your false prophets? The event surely demonstrates how much they have deceived you. The siege is again renewed, and the city in imminent danger of being taken." Jeremiah does not abate any of his zeal and spirit on account of the confinement and persecution which he underwent.

Verse 21

Jeremiah 37:21. A piece of bread out of the bakers' street Though among the easterns an oven was designed only to serve a single family, and to bake for them no more than the bread of one day, in ancient times;—a circumstance which ought to be recollected in order to enter into the force of Lev 26:26 and which is a usage still continued in some places of the east;—yet it should seem that there were anciently, as there now are, some public bake-houses. Thus we read of the bakers' street in the passage before us; which might possibly be only a temporary regulation, to supply the wants of the soldiers, assembled from other places to defend Jerusalem, who might receive daily a proper quantity of bread from the royal bake-houses, as is the case at Algiers at this time, according to Dr. Shaw: besides some money, their soldiers, who are unmarried, receive each of them such a number of loaves every day: and if so, nothing could be more natural than for the king to order thence for Jeremiah a piece or a cake of bread every day, after the same manner. But be this as it may, Pitts informs us, that they have public bake-houses at Algiers for the people in common, the women only preparing the dough at home, and other persons making it their business to bake it, who send their boys for that purpose about the streets to give notice of being ready to receive the people's bread, and to carry it to the bake-houses; "Upon which the women within come and knock on the inside of the door; which the boy hearing, makes towards the house; then the women open the door a very little way, and, hiding their faces, deliver the cakes to him: which when baked he brings to the door again, and the women receive them in the same manner as they gave them." He adds, that they bake their cakes thus every day, or every other day, and give the boy who brings the bread, a piece or little cake, for the baking, which the baker sells. According to this account then, small as the eastern loaves are, they break them it seems, and give a piece only to the baker, as a gratification for his trouble. This will illustrate Ezekiel's account of the false prophetesses receiving as gratuities pieces of bread; Ezekiel 13:19. These are compensations still in use in the east, but compensations of the meanest kind, and for services of the lowest sort. See the Observations, p. 145.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, When Nebuchadnezzar had slain Jehoiakim, and taken away Coniah his son, that shadow of royalty, he placed on the throne of Zedekiah a younger son of Josiah.

1. His ill conduct is remarked. He copied too closely after his evil predecessors; and, though he saw in them the fatal consequence of slighting the word of God, he took not warning; neither he nor his courtiers paying any regard to the calls and admonitions delivered by Jeremiah.

2. Though he neglected the prophet in his prosperity, when his distresses came upon him, he made application to him, earnestly intreating his prayers; for at that time the prophet enjoyed his liberty, and was not, as afterwards, shut up in prison. The Chaldeans, according to his prediction, had already begun the siege of Jerusalem; but, on hearing that an army of Egyptians were advancing to assist the Jews, though their king returned no more after his first defeat, 2 Kings 24:7. Nebuchadnezzar marched to give them battle. Zedekiah, therefore, begs the prophet to interest himself in their behalf, and pray the Lord to defeat the Chaldean army and prevent their return to Jerusalem. Note; (1.) Many, who despise God's ministers when in health and at their ease, are glad to fly to them and beg their prayers in the day of their calamity. (2.) Many also, like Zedekiah, are very earnest to be delivered from their sufferings, who have no heart to part with their sins.

3. Jeremiah answers not like a courtier; but, as a prophet, he tells them plainly, the Egyptians shall retreat or be defeated, the Chaldeans return to the siege, and never cease their attacks till they have taken the city and burnt it to the ground. Therefore the hopes which they entertained were groundless: they deceived themselves, when they thought that the Chaldeans would no more return, or not be able to succeed in their attempt; for, since God had decreed the fall of Jerusalem, though the Chaldeans had been smitten by them or their confederates, and none remained of their army but wounded men, such vigour would God put into them, that even they should rise up in their tents, whither they had been carried to be dressed, scale the walls, and burn the city with fire. Note; (1.) Sinners usually flatter themselves to their ruin, and easily believe the lie which their corrupted hearts wish to be true. (2.) All human help is vain when God is against us. (3.) When God hath work to do, he can make the weakest and most unlikely instruments effectual to accomplish his purposes.

2nd, Shortly after the message that he had delivered, foreseeing the impending evils, Jeremiah began to consult his own safety; and to this end,
1. He attempted to retire from Jerusalem into Benjamin, perhaps to Anathoth, or some place of safety, to separate himself from a people doomed to destruction, or to slip away thence in the midst of the people, which probably he thought he might now do unperceived, when multitudes, who had flocked to Jerusalem on the invasion of the Chaldeans, were ready to take the opportunity of their departure, to return again into the country. Note; When we have no call from God to stay, it is prudent to hide ourselves from the evils that we foresee.

2. He is arrested as a deserter, and imprisoned. A captain, who kept ward at the gate of Benjamin, a descendant of Hananiah, probably the false prophet whose death Jeremiah had foretold, and who seems to have waited to do the prophet a mischief, seized him as he was passing through, and charged him with falling away to the Chaldeans; an accusation false and malicious, and which Jeremiah, with all the confidence of conscious innocence, denied; but in vain; he would not let him go, but drew him before the magistrates, too ready to receive any accusation against a man whom they hated: they condemn him in a passion, without hearing his defence, and, after beating him, committed him to prison, thrusting him into the dungeon, the worst and most dismal cell of that dark and melancholy abode, where he continued many days. Note; (1.) The purest characters are often blackened with the vilest aspersions; and the best friends of the state reviled and secured as the enemies and betrayers of the nation. (2.) When prejudice and passion sit in the chair of magistracy, no justice can be hoped for. (3.) Every lie, however improbable, is easily believed against a man obnoxious to their hatred for his piety and reproofs. (4.) It has been the lot of the best of men to suffer for conscience' sake. We need not be ashamed of a prison, when such as Jeremiah and Paul have gone thither before us.

3. When the Chaldean army returned, Zedekiah's fears drove him once more to seek the prophet's assistance: but being ashamed to have it known, he sent for him secretly from the miserable dungeon where he lay, and asked him if there was any word from the Lord? any new revelation made to him, or hope that the Chaldeans would raise the siege? And the prophet, not intimidated by all the rigours of a prison, nor fearing what might be the consequence of his fidelity, plainly tells him, there is not a word of comfort, but of despair; for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon. And, seizing the moment when the king seemed affected with his message, he expostulates with him on the cruelty and injustice of the treatment which he had suffered merely for delivering the word that he received from God, which the event had now verified; and upbraids him with the sin and folly of believing those false prophets who had flattered him and the people that the Chaldeans would no more return; when lo, their lies were now manifest to all men; and yet they were honoured and respected, while he was persecuted and perishing in a prison. Note; (1.) They who will not hearken to the voice of God's prophets, calling them to repentance, may in vain expect to hear from them messages of peace. (2.) They deserve to be upbraided with their folly who wilfully shut their eyes to their danger, and choose their own delusions. (3.) No danger will discourage those who know the value of God's regard; their life is no longer dear to them, when it must be exposed for their fidelity to him.

4. He prefers an earnest request to the king for his enlargement, who could not but be sensible of the injustice of his imprisonment: and such treatment as he had met with, must shortly, if continued, be his death. He begs therefore, with great humility, that at least he may not be remanded to Jonathan's house. Note; Though we must be ready to part with our lives when God calls, we are bound to use all prudent means for our preservation.

5. The king grants his request, yea, exceeds it. He dared not discharge him, through fear of the princes; but he brings him into the court of the prison, where he was more at liberty, and enjoyed the air; and gave orders, notwithstanding the scarcity of provisions, that every day, while any bread remained, he should have a loaf for his subsistence. Thus his imprisonment really became his mercy; and he was protected both from the famine and the sword, to which those who were at large in the city were exposed. Note; God can make the events which appeared most afflictive turn out to us the most substantial blessings.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 37". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/jeremiah-37.html. 1801-1803.
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