Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Jeremiah 38:5

So King Zedekiah said, "Behold, he is in your hands; for the king can do nothing against you."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Persecution;   Rulers;   Zedekiah;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Persecution;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Pashur;   Zedekiah;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Gedaliah;   Jeremiah;   Zedekiah;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Pashur;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ebed-Melech;   Kings, the Books of;   Zedekiah;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Jeremiah;   Prison, Prisoners;   Prophecy, Prophets;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Greek Versions of Ot;   Pashhur;   Zedekiah,;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Law of Moses;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Judah;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Gedaliah;   Pashhur;   Zedekiah (2);   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Ebed-Melech;   Pashur;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

He is in your hand - Ye have power to do as you please; I must act by your counsel. Poor weak prince! you respect the prophet, you fear the cabal, and you sacrifice an innocent man to your own weakness and their malice!

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/jeremiah-38.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

All real power was in their hands, and as they affirmed that Jeremiah‘s death was a matter of necessity, the king did not dare refuse it to them.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/jeremiah-38.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Jeremiah 38:5

For the king is not he that can do anything against you.

Zedekiah weakened and ruined through fear of man

Zedekiah was one of those unfortunate characters, frequent in history, like our own Charles I. and Louis XVI. of France, who find themselves at the head of affairs during a great crisis, without having the strength of character to enable them to do what they know to be right, and whose infirmity becomes moral guilt. The princes of his court had him completely under their influence (Jeremiah 38:5). “The king is not he that can do anything against you.” This view of his character is the key to Jeremiah 38:17. The king had some sympathy with the imprisoned prophet. He had also a desire to hear the Word of the Lord; but he was afraid of the princes. He did not dare openly to show his sympathy, openly to declare his reverence for the Divine message; so he had a secret interview with him. Jeremiah’s address to the king may be divided into three parts--

He declared that the King of Babylon should be victorious; he also declared his own innocence of any design against king or people, and compared his own conduct with that of the prophets who, to please the people, had spoken smooth things unto them; and he asked for some alleviation of his treatment.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jeremiah 38:5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/jeremiah-38.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"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."[6] 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.

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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 38:5". "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 Zedekiah the king said, behold, he is in your hand,.... In your power, to do with him as you please. This is either a grant of the king, allowing them to do as they thought fit; or a declaration of their power, supposing them to be the princes of the sanhedrim, as Grotius thinks, to judge of a false prophet, and condemn him; but that they were such does not appear; nor does their charge of the prophet, or their procedure against him, confirm it. The former sense seems best:

for the king is not he that can do any thing against you; which is said either in a flattering way, that such was their interest in him, and so great his regard for them, that he could not deny them any thing. So it is in the old translations, "for the king may deny you nothing"; and, "the king can deny you nothing": or else in a complaining way, suggesting that, he was a king, and no king; that he had no power to oppose them; they would do as they pleased; and therefore it signified nothing applying to him; he should not say any thing against it; he would have no concern in it; they might do as they pleased, since he knew they would.

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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.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/jeremiah-38.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he [is] in your hand: for the king [is] not [he that] can do [any] d thing against you.

(d) In which he grievously offended in that not only would he not hear the truth spoken by the prophet, but also gave him to the lusts of the wicked to be cruelly treated.
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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/jeremiah-38.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

the king is not he — Zedekiah was a weak prince, and now in his straits afraid to oppose his princes. He hides his dislike of their overweening power, which prevented him shielding Jeremiah as he would have wished, under complimentary speeches. “It is not right that the king should deny aught to such faithful and wise statesmen”; the king is not such a one as to deny you your wishes [Jerome].

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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.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/jeremiah-38.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.

For the king — I see I am as it were no king. I can do nothing against you, you will do what you please.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/jeremiah-38.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Jeremiah 38:5 Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he [is] in your hand: for the king [is] not [he that] can do [any] thing against you.

Ver. 5. 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.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/jeremiah-38.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Jeremiah 38:5. For the king is not he, &c.— Nor is it proper for the king to deny you any thing. Houbigant. Nothing can give a higher idea of the weakness and pusillanimity of Zedekiah than this passage.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". 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

He is in your hand; that is, in your power, either by the established law against false prophets, or else I yield up my power to you, I surrender him into your hands. But neither of these seemeth very probable, for here is no mention of the sitting of the sanhedrim to judge him as a false prophet, nor of any judicial proceedings of that nature: and it should seem by Zedekiah’s relieving of him soon after from the dungeon, into which they threw him, that he had not surrendered Jeremiah so into their hands, but he to himself a superintendency upon them to correct their too severe dealings with him. The meaning seems rather to be, If you will do any such thing, I shall not oppose you, but I will not be the author of it.

For the king is not he that can do any thing against you; I see I am as it were no king, I can do nothing against you, you will do what you please. I incline to this sense from the consideration of the favour showed him by Zedekiah, both before and after this.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". 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

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.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/jeremiah-38.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Zedekiah turned Jeremiah over to the nobles. He claimed he could not overrule their will. Obviously he should have stood up for Jeremiah, but he feared his state officials (cf. Jeremiah 38:25-27). He was an early-day Pontius Pilate who washed his hands of his responsibility (cf. Matthew 27:24).

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/jeremiah-38.html. 2012.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Lawful. This is a compliment, or Sedecias complains indirectly that they had only left him the name of king. He grieved at the treatment of the prophet. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/jeremiah-38.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.

The king is not he that can do anything against you. Zedekiah was a weak prince, and now in his straits afraid to oppose his princes. He hides his dislike of their overweening power, which prevented him shielding Jeremiah as he would have wished, under complimentary speeches. 'It is not right that the king should deny aught to such faithful and wise statesmen;' the king is not such a one as to deny you your wishes (Jerome).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/jeremiah-38.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.
for
1 Samuel 15:24; 29:9; 2 Samuel 3:39; 19:22; Proverbs 29:25; John 19:12-16
Reciprocal: Genesis 16:6 - in;  Exodus 23:2 - to decline;  Joshua 9:25 - we are;  Job 1:12 - power;  Job 31:34 - Did I;  Jeremiah 26:14 - As for;  Jeremiah 37:17 - asked;  Jeremiah 38:19 - I;  Daniel 6:16 - the king

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/jeremiah-38.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Zedekiah doubtless knew that wrong was done to the holy Prophet; for though he wished him to remain as he was, yet he knew that the Prophet had not threatened the people from ill-will or a hostile mind; and he was thus conscious that he had to do with God rather than with a mortal man. However this may have been, he knew that Jeremiah was not an enemy to the public safety according to the charge brought by the princes. He might then have wished to deliver the Prophet from their hands, but he submitted to their fury; for he was divested of all regal power, and was become, as it were, a slave to his own counselors, on whom depended the government of the kingdom.

They wrongly explain this verse, who think that the king spoke honorably of his counselors, as though he had said, that such was their prudence and dignity, that nothing could be denied them. They pervert the meaning of the Prophet; for the king, on the contrary, acknowledges here, that he was reduced to such a condition, as though he were a private individual, he, in short, confessed that he was the servant of servants; “Now I see,” he says, “that I am no king, but that ye so rule, that, willing or unwilling, I am forced to yield to you, even in the best cause.” There is then no doubt but that it was the bitter complaint of the king when he said, The king can do nothing against you. (110)

But Zedekiah deserved this degradation: for he ought to have been from the beginning more teachable, and to submit to God. But in the first place, as we have seen, he had despised prophetic doctrine, and hearkened not to the voice of God; and in the second place, he revolted perfidiously from the Chaldean king, and became thus guilty of ingratitude, for when his nephew was dethroned, that is, Jeconiah or Coniah, he obtained the regal power through the favor of the king of Babylon. He had therefore been ungrateful in denying tribute to him. But his impiety was the main cause of all evils. As then he had been such a rebel against God, he deserved that the princes should prove rebels to him. He then degraded himself, and deprived himself of royal authority, when he refused submission to the word of God, and also when he denied tribute to the king of Babylon. It was no wonder, then, that God made him subject to the princes and counselors, who were yet his servants.

As to these couriers, their arrogance was inexcusable in daring to condemn Jeremiah; for this was to take away from the king his own right; Die let this man, for he is worthy of death. Why was it that they were not content with accusing him, without assuming also to be his sole judges? As, then, they treated the king so disrespectfully, there is no doubt but they were despisers of God, when they deemed as nothing the royal dignity. But as to the king, he reaped, as I have said, the fruit of his own impiety, for he had not given to God his due honor in embracing the truth taught by the Prophet. It was therefore necessary, that he should be unworthily and contumeliously treated, so that he dared not to say even one word in behalf of a just and good cause. This was the reason why he said, He is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38:5". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/jeremiah-38.html. 1840-57.