Jeremiah 37 – 38

Jeremiah 37

A history of the two falls of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar

Three months and ten days after Jeconiah [aka Jehoichin 2] became king of Judah, the armies of Nebuchadnezzar II seized Jerusalem for the first time and deported high class captives to Babylon to advance Babylonian society.  

On March 15/16th, 597 B.C. Jeconiah, his entire household and three thousand Jews,  were exiled to Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar replaced king Jeconiah with Zedekiah.

Jeremiah 37:1 And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah [aka Jeconiah] the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah.

Yet even after this, neither the king nor the majority of the people repented.

37:2 But neither he [Zedekiah], nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the LORD, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.

The new king Zedekiah allowed Jeremiah freedom and asked him to pray for the nation, even as he and the people continued in sin.

37:3 And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the LORD our God for us. 37:4 Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison.

At that time Egypt and the Babylonians were struggling for supremacy and when Egypt began to threaten the Babylonians left Jerusalem.

37:5 Then Pharaoh’s army was come forth out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem.

God tells Judah through Jeremiah that the Babylonians will return.

37:6 Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah saying, 37:7 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to enquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land. 37:8 And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire.

The Babylonian Chronicles gives 2 Adar (16 March), 597 B.C., as the date that Nebuchadnezzar first captured Jerusalem, thus putting an end to the three month and ten day reign of Jeconiah.  Zedekiah’s installation as king replacing his nephew Jeconiah can therefore be dated to the early spring of 597 B.C.

Zedekiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II in 597 BC at the age of twenty-one. The kingdom of Judah then became tributary to Nebuchadnezzar II.  Jeremiah warned Zedekiah from God to turn to God and to remain faithful to Nebuchadnezzar, or the Babylonians would return. 

God warned the king not to rebel against Babylon but they would not trust in God and made an alliance with the Egyptians rebelling against the king of Babylon and against God.

37:9 Thus saith the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. 37:10 For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city [Jerusalem] with fire.

The Babylonian army departed from Jerusalem with their captives in 597 B.C.  and Jeremiah left Jerusalem to go to nearby Benjamin, only to be accused of treason and of willingly joining the departing Babylonians.

37:11 And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up  [retreated] from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army, 37:12 Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people. 37:13 And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans.

Jeremiah denies the accusation and is brought back to Jerusalem to be judged by the princes.

37:14 Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes.

Jeremiah is imprisoned

37:15 Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison.

Despite strong warnings from Jeremiah, from Baruch ben Neriah and from other advisers; Zedekiah revolted against Babylon, and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah again (2 Kings 25:1) in 589 B.C.

After a long time when the king of Babylon again approached the city in 589 B.C.  Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah to inquire of God.

37:16 When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins [cells], and Jeremiah had remained there many days [from 597 to about 590 B.C.; seven years]; 37:17 Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the LORD? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.

Jeremiah protests his imprisonment after he has been proved right and the king of Babylon has returned with his army; while the false prophets were proven to be false.

37:18 Moreover Jeremiah said unto king Zedekiah, What have I offended against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison? 37:19 Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land? 37:20 Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.

Jeremiah was then released to “minimum security.”

37:21 Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers’ street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.


Jeremiah 38

Later the princes demand the death of Jeremiah for discouraging the people from the battle as Nebuchadnezzar’s army surrounded the city a second time.  

The Babylonians had begun the second siege of Jerusalem in the ninth year, tenth month, tenth day of king Zedekiah [the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem began on January 27, 589 B.C.  ( Jeremiah 29:1,  Ezekiel 24:1-2  and 2 Kings 25:1). 

All texts related to the fall of Jerusalem in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 2 Kings, and 2 Chronicles are internally consistent and consistent with the fall of the city in Tammuz of 587 B.C.  The city and temple were then plundered and burned on 9th day of Av [late July early August] 586 B.C.

Jeremiah 38:1 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,

38:2 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. 38:3 Thus saith the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it.

The princes told the king that Jeremiah had proclaimed that those who abandoned the fight and surrendered to the Babylonians would be saved, and that those who remained in the city and resisted would be vanquished.

People just will not follow the Word of God and usually do what they think is right, instead of doing what God tells them to do.

38:4 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.

The king then gave Jeremiah to the princes

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.

Then they put Jeremiah down into the cistern [a man made water catchment] which was empty because of the siege, and he sank into the sediment at the bottom.

38:6 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 [cistern] there was no water [no water was left in the cistern because of the siege related drought], but mire [muck]: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.

Taking his life in his hands, Ebedmelech appealed to the king and God uses the faith of this Ethiopian eunuch to save Jeremiah from death by thirst and hunger.

38:7 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; 38:8 Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king saying, 38:9 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.

The king granted the request and Jeremiah was saved out of the cistern.

38:10 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. 38:11 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 [the cistern] to Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was restored to the “minimum security” of the prison courtyard.  The king probably had his own reasons for consenting to the appeal of Ebedmelech.  Most likely the king realized from the fulfillment of his words that Jeremiah spoke the truth from God and wanted to continue to consult with him.

38:12 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. 38:13 So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.

The king then met secretly with Jeremiah

38:14 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.

The king swears to keep Jeremiah from harm if he will advise the king

38:15 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? 38:16 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.

God promises to deliver the life of king Zedekiah and the people who surrender to the king of Babylon.

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: 38:18 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.

The king fears being given into the hands of those who had already surrendered, and God offers him safety if he will only give up the battle.

38:19 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. 38:20 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.

Those who do not love God enough to study, to learn and to live by every Word of God; are not worthy of him.

Matthew 10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:38 And he that taketh not his cross [the burden and consequences of zeal for Christ], and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

Jeremiah 38:21 But if thou refuse to go forth [if Zedekiah refuses to give up the battle and surrender he will be taken], this is the word that the LORD hath shewed me: 38:22 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 given to the Babylonians], 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. 38:23 So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children [and give them to the Babylonians] 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.

The king commanded Jeremiah to keep secret the words of their meeting.

38:24 Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die. 38:25 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: 38:26 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.

Jeremiah followed the king’s word, but the king did not repent nor did he surrender to the Babylonians as God had instructed him, and was therefore captured when the city fell, and the city was then looted and burned.

38:27 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.

Jeremiah was in “minimum security” imprisonment until the city fell.

38:28 So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken (587 B.C.).


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