Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Jeremiah 38:17

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "Thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘If you will indeed go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city will not be burned with fire, and you and your household will survive.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Babylon;   Prisoners;   Zedekiah;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Jeremiah;   Prophecy, prophet;   Zedekiah;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Prophet, Prophetess, Prophecy;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Foreknowledge of God;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Jehoiachin;   King;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Greek Versions of Ot;   Zedekiah,;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Foreknowledge;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Wilt assuredly go - On the king's obedience to the advice of the prophet the safety of the city depended.

Unto the king of Babylon's princes - The generals of the army then returning to the siege from the defeat of the Egyptians; for Nebuchadnezzar himself was then at Riblah, in Syria, Jeremiah 39:5, Jeremiah 39:6.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/jeremiah-38.html. 1832.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

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 his 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 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 these 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)."[15]

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 21:19,22:20-37). 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."[16]

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/jeremiah-38.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah,.... Being thus indemnified and secured by the king's word and oath, he proceeds freely to lay before the king the whole matter as from the Lord:

thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; the prophet does not give the following advice in his own name, but in the name of the eternal Jehovah, the Lord of armies above and below, and who had a special regard to the people of Israel, and their welfare; and therefore it became the king to show the more regard unto it:

if thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes; the generals of his army, whose names are mentioned, Jeremiah 39:3; the king not being with his army at this time, but at Riblah, Jeremiah 39:5; the meaning is, if he would open the gates of Jerusalem, and go forth from thence to the Chaldean army, and surrender himself and the city into the hands of the princes in it, and general officers of it:

then thy soul shall live; in thy body, and not be separated from it; or live comfortably, in peace and safety, though not in so much splendour and glory as he had done:

and this city shall not be burned with fire; as had been threatened; and as the Chaldeans would be provoked to do, should it hold out to the last extremity; but should preserve it upon a surrender:

and thou shall live, and thine house; not only himself, but his wives and children, and servants.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/jeremiah-38.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Then said Jeremiah to Zedekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth to the king of Babylon's h princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thy house:

(h) And yield yourself to them.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/jeremiah-38.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

princes — (Jeremiah 39:3). He does not say “to the king himself,” for he was at Riblah, in Hamath (Jeremiah 39:5; 2 Kings 25:6). “If thou go forth” (namely, to surrender; 2 Kings 24:12; Isaiah 36:16), God foreknows future conditional contingencies, and ordains not only the end, but also the means to the end.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/jeremiah-38.html. 1871-8.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Jeremiah 38:17 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:

Ver. 17. 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.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/jeremiah-38.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Jeremiah 38:17. If thou wilt assuredly go forth Nebuchadrezzar was not in person at the siege of Jerusalem. He was at Riblah in Syria, chap. Jeremiah 39:5-6. His army was commanded by his generals; it is to these generals or princes that Jeremiah counsels Zedekiah to return, and to submit himself to the king, by whom he had been established on the throne.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jeremiah-38.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Thy soul shall live; that is, thou shalt live.

And this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house; and thou shalt save the city from being burned with fire, and thy wives and children from death. God did certainly know that Zedekiah would not do this, though it was in his power to do it, yet he doth not judge it vain for him, to exhort him to it, and to annex such a promise; for thereby he was left inexcusable, in his not saving the city and his relations’ lives.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/jeremiah-38.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

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.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/jeremiah-38.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

We do not know what Zedekiah"s question was, but it must have been: "Has the Lord changed His mind?" No, He had not, but Zedekiah needed to change his. Jeremiah promised the king on the authority of Almighty Yahweh, Israel"s God, that if he surrendered to the Babylonian military officers, he would live. Furthermore, they would not burn down the city, and his whole household would survive. This must have seemed like a very unlikely possibility to Zedekiah since he had proved to be a rebellious vassal of Nebuchadnezzar. Suzerains usually mutilated and killed rebel kings who surrendered to them. [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p156.] Ironically, Chaldean officials would have spared Zedekiah"s life, but Judean officials were seeking to snuff out Jeremiah"s life.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/jeremiah-38.html. 2012.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

King. He was at Reblatha. Though an usurper, he had claims upon Sedecias, whom he had appointed ruler, on his swearing to be faithful and to pay tribute. The prophet's advice was just. (Calmet) --- Even conditional prophecies are certain, and the king would have been treated differently if he had complied. But on his refusal, great misery ensued. (Worthington)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/jeremiah-38.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel. See note on Jeremiah 35:17.

the God of hosts. Some codices, with Aramaean, Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate, omit "God", and read "Jehovah Z baioth, God of Israel".

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/jeremiah-38.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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 ... go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes - (Jeremiah 39:3). He does not say 'to the king himself,' for he was at Riblah, in Hamath (Jeremiah 39:5; 2 Kings 25:6). How strikingly the historic accuracy of Scripture is confirmed by these minute and undesigned coincidences with matter of fact! "If thou go forth" (namely, to surrender thyself to the King of Babylon, as Jehoiakim did, 2 Kings 24:12; contrast Rabshakeh's words to the Jews on the wall "Come out to me," Isaiah 36:16). God foreknows future conditional contingencies, and ordains not only the end, but also the means to the end.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/jeremiah-38.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(17) If thou wilt assuredly go forth.—Literally, If going thou wilt go, the Hebrew idiom of emphasis. The prophet places before the king the alternative of surrender and safety, resistance and destruction, and leaves him to make his choice. The princes of the king of Babylon were those in command of the army by which Jerusalem was invested. The king himself was at Riblah, on the Orontes, in Northern Syria (Jeremiah 39:5).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/jeremiah-38.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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:
the God of hosts
Psalms 80:7,14; Amos 5:27
the God of Israel
1 Chronicles 17:24; Ezra 9:4
If thou
2; 7:6,7; 21:8-10; 27:12,17; 39:3; Job 23:13
Reciprocal: 2 Kings 24:12 - Jehoiachin;  2 Kings 24:20 - Zedekiah;  Jeremiah 21:4 - Behold;  Jeremiah 21:9 - that abideth;  Jeremiah 27:8 - that nation;  Jeremiah 29:16 - GeneralJeremiah 37:13 - Thou;  Jeremiah 40:9 - Fear;  Ezekiel 17:14 - but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand;  Zephaniah 3:7 - so

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/jeremiah-38.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

A question may be raised here, Whether God had again bidden his Prophet to repeat what he had so often spoken in vain? To this we cannot say anything certain, except that the probability is, that the Prophet did not open his mouth without being guided by the Holy Spirit. For though he had not received any new command, yet the Spirit of God influenced him, and ruled his tongue as well as his heart. We shall indeed presently find, that what was nigh at hand had been revealed to him; not what he had before, but it was added as a new confirmation of former doctrine. But this is only a probable conjecture; let then every one take his own view of the question.

That he might now gain credit to his answer, he prefaced it by saying, that he did not speak except from God’s mouth. He had often declared this, having testified that what he said was made known to him by God. But it is not now known whether he had been bidden to repeat the same things; though it is certain that he did not make a wrong use of God’s name, nor did he, without authority, assert that it was God’s word. The Spirit, therefore, as I have said, was his guide and ruler, though we may grant that he did not receive any divine command.

He calls God, the God of hosts, and the God of Israel. By the first title he denotes the omnipotence of God; and by the second, the covenant which he had made with the Jews. He then did set forth the immeasurable power of God, that he might make Zedekiah to fear; for hypocrites, though they are constrained to dread God’s name, yet afterwards do, in a manner, become hardened: it is therefore necessary to rouse them, as the Prophet did here. He then touched on the impiety of Zedekiah; for he not only professed himself to be one of God’s elect people, but he was also the king and head; he ruled over the heritage of the Lord. And yet he did not believe any of the prophecies. There is therefore implied a reprobation, when the Prophet says, the God of Israel

A mitigation of punishment is added, provided Zedekiah willingly put his neck under the yoke. And it was no common mercy from God, that he could yet escape extreme punishment; for he was unworthy to be regarded by God, since for some years he had not attended to what he had heard from the mouth of Jeremiah, that he was to surrender himself, his people, and the city to the Chaldeans. he had refused, nay, he had been refractory and obstinate against God. We hence see, that he was unworthy of any alleviation; and yet God was still ready to forgive him, as to his life, provided he passed over, of his own accord, to the Chal-deans. And thus he was made more inexcusable, inasmuch as when he heard that God would be propitious if he submitted to due punishment, he was still unwilling to obey, as afterwards we shall see. And thus we see that Jeremiah had not said without reason, “If I give thee counsel, thou wilt not hear nor obey me;for the event proved this. This is one thing. Then he said, Thou shalt live; and in the first place, he said, Thy soul shall live; and then, This city shall not be burned, and thou shalt live; and he repeated the words, Thou shalt live, thou and thy house Now follows the threatening —

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:17". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/jeremiah-38.html. 1840-57.