Morning Light – Jeremiah 38

Today: [Jeremiah 38] Jeremiah’s Captivity Continues. In this chapter Jeremiah is moved to two different prisons. He is held captive because his words from God are considered traitorous. Have you ever heard from God something that wasn’t popular with those around you? Jeremiah suffered greatly for his prophetic words, but remained faithful to God as an example to all those who deign to speak in His name.
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[Jer 38:1-28 KJV] 1 Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying, 2 Thus saith the LORD, He that remaineth 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; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live. 3 Thus saith the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it. 4 Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus 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. 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. 6 Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that [was] in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon [there was] no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire. 7 Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin; 8 Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king, saying, 9 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 for hunger in the place where he is: for [there is] no more bread in the city.
In today’s chapter Jeremiah once again suffers at the hands of his persecutors. Shephatiah takes issue in verse 1 to the suggestion that the city of Jerusalem will be taken. These words though they come from God and not Jeremiah’s own opinions, are considered traitorous therefore in verse 4 the princes of Jerusalem call for Jeremiah’s death. Zedekiah – feigning impotence to resist the counsel of the elders, consents to Jeremiah’s demise. This is akin to David’s command to Joab that the troops fall back from Uzziah in battle that he die by the hand of his enemies. Jeremiah, as Uzziah has done nothing worthy of death but nonetheless the princes take him and put him in the third dungeon that he has languished in.
Ebedemelech, an Ethiopian servant of Zedekiah petitions the king to deliver Jeremiah lest he die of starvation under the brutality of the elders. It took a non-Israelite to see that an injustice is being done here. The presence of an Ethiopian in Zedekiah’s court no doubt goes back centuries to the time when Solomon greeted Sheba, an Ethiopian queen to His court. The wisdom of Solomon that Sheba admired is in evidence in this Ethiopian eunuch. Zedekiah relents and agrees to spare Jeremiah, though he stops short of granting his freedom.
10 Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die. 11 So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. 12 And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now [these] old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine armholes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so. 13 So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison. 14 Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third entry that [is] in the house of the LORD: and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me. 15 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, wilt thou not hearken unto me? 16 So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, [As] the LORD 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. 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: 18 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.
Ebedmelech under orders from the king determines to set Jeremiah free from the princes who sought his life. He takes men with him into the treasury of the king and the only thing they find there to assist them in retrieving Jeremiah is a heap of old and filthy rags. What an astonishing thing that the once great treasury of Solomon has been reduced to a mere garbage dump. Nonetheless they fashion a rope of these filthy rags and lower them into the mire that Jeremiah was left in to lift him up out of the dungeon.
Once Jeremiah is delivered from imminent danger of starvation, he is delivered to now a fourth place of imprisonment, again in the court of the prison in the king’s house. Zedekiah meets him there and asks again for a word from the Lord. Jeremiah resists answering the king because he knows the king will only condemn him again to death, and will in no way obey the words of the prophecy he would give. Zedekiah promises to spare Jeremiah’s life or to allow anyone else to do it for him. Jeremiah then commands the king by the word of the Lord to deliver the city to the Babylonians, if he has any hope of surviving the Babylonian invasion.
19 And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me. 20 But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver [thee]. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live. 21 But if thou refuse to go forth, this [is] the word that the LORD hath shewed me: 22 And, 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 friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee: thy feet are sunk in the mire, [and] they are turned away back. 23 So 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. 24 Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die. 25 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: 26 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. 27 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. 28 So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was [there] when Jerusalem was taken.
Zedekiah hears the word that Jeremiah gives and complains that if he surrenders to the Chaldeans, that he will suffer at the hands of the Jews who have already been carried away captive by the invaders. Jeremiah declares that no matter what happens after Zedekiah surrenders, that he will not be turned over to the Jews currently in captivity. If Zedekiah refuses however – the destruction of the city and the suffering of the people will be great. It is of note to point out that Zedekiah’s terms of surrender and determined by God and not by man. He isn’t speaking to a Chaldean, hoping for clemency, he is negotiating with God Himself through the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet, a prophet in chains, yet moving in such authority that the king trembles under his hand. Having spoken to the king, Jeremiah is instructed to keep it a secret on pain of death. The princes come to inquire as to the conversation that passed between Zedekiah and Jeremiah and the prophet obfuscates and his life is spared. Thus Jeremiah is to remain in the court of the prison in the king’s house until the day that Jerusalem falls at last to the Babylonians.

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