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Saturday, June 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 38

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Had spoken The original is less restricted, was speaking. The present participle here implies that Jeremiah continued to speak thus.

Verses 1-5


Jeremiah’s imprisonment at the first was doubtless the fruit of personal malice. He had become offensive, and the object was to get him out of the way. But the change made by the king’s taking him out of the vaults and allowing him the liberty of the prison court, restored him to intercourse with his friends and contact with the people. Hence a new effort is made to get rid of both the presence and influence of this prophet and his offensive messages.

Verse 4

4. He weakeneth the hands True, but there was no treason in his heart, and so the charge that he seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt, was not true.

Verse 5

5. For the king, etc. The exact construction of the original is doubtful and disputed. But following the Masoretic text, we must translate, The king cannot as to you a word, (or matter;) that is, the king cannot over-bear you in any matter. It is a confession of imbecility, indeed, but also suggests a real dislike of Jeremiah.

Verse 6


6. Dungeon Literally, as above, cistern. As every house was supplied with these they easily served as ready-made prisons. In a cistern like to these, in the field or pasture, Joseph was placed by his brethren at Dothan. This explains the allusion in Zechariah 9:11, “prisoners out of the pit in which is no water.” Hence also the use of cords to let down Jeremiah into the prison.

Verse 7

7. Ebed-melech the Ethiopian The import of the name is “servant of the king.” In 2 Kings 23:11, another eunuch is called Nathan-melech “gift of the king.” From such examples it would seem not improbable that it was not unusual for slaves to take their names from their masters. He was an Ethiopian, and so it was given to an Ethiopian to be a saviour of the prophet. As he is mentioned, we cannot but think of another Ethiopian, also a eunuch, who became the messenger of salvation to his own country, as related in Acts 8:0.

Verse 9

9. Is like to die Literally, he is dead upon the spot for hunger. This is the language of intensity and alarm. It is hence the language of the feelings, and not merely of the intellect.

Verse 10

10. Thirty men This great number has been a difficulty to many, and such bold and free critics as Ewald have conjectured an emendation of the text, substituting three for thirty. They support this by the fact that the word for “men” is plural in the original, whereas the ordinary Hebrew usage is to use the singular form of the noun with all numerals above ten.

But, a) This rule of Hebrew syntax, though general, is not invariable. There are many instances in which, when the numeral precedes, the plural form of the noun is used. b) And we know too little to object to the number thirty. They were not necessarily fighting men, nor does it follow that so many were actually needed to execute the order; but so many were given to make sure of the execution of the order.

Verse 11

11. Old cast clouts and old rotten rags The same word is used for “clouts” and “rags.” Hence the better translation would be, rags of torn garments and rags of worn out garments. This shows the practical sagacity as well as the kindness of the eunuch.

Verse 12

12. Thine armholes Literally, the joints of thy hands. The same word is used in Ezekiel 13:18. Here the meaning is manifestly “armholes,” and from this we may come to the true sense in Ezekiel 13:18.

Verse 14


14. Then Zedekiah, etc. The imbecile and helpless king oscillated betwixt the prophet and the princes. The overshadowing peril and his own sense of helplessness forbade him to be at rest.

Third entry Nothing is known of this passage way, but Keil and others conjecture that it may have been an enclosed space leading from the palace to the temple. Hence it might be a convenient place for a private interview.

Verse 15

15. Wilt thou not hearken The English is wrong in giving the last sentence as a question. The true reading is, thou wilt not hearken unto me.

Verse 16

16. That made us this soul An unusual addition to the formula of an oath.

Verse 17

17. King of Babylon’s princes This language suggests that the king may not himself have been present with the army at this time. As intimated in Jeremiah 39:5, and 2 Kings 25:6, he was probably at this time at Riblah, and hence we have here a minute and apparently altogether undesigned coincidence, but one which stamps on the whole the image of verisimilitude.

Verse 19

19. I am afraid of the Jews More “afraid” of them than of God! more afraid of contumely and ridicule than of calamity and ruin!

Verse 22

22. All the women As the alternative of the mocking that might come to him should he go over to the Chaldeans, the prophet intimates that if he fails to do so the women of his household shall be insulted, and shall take up a satire against him.

In the mire A very expressive figure, setting forth the difficulties into which he had been led, and then deserted by his friends.

Verse 24

24. Let no man know A king, and yet did not dare to have the particulars of this interview known!

Verse 26

26. I presented my supplication, etc. True, but misleading. In this it has several parallels in the Bible. If asked whether it was right, the only safe answer is, We cannot fully decide. There may have been much affecting the case which we do not know. It is very certain that a man has a right to withhold the truth when to tell it would do harm.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/jeremiah-38.html. 1874-1909.
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