JEREMIAH CHAPTER 37.
Jeremiah's Faithful Testimony Rewarded with Imprisonment.
A PROPHECY CONCERNING THE OUTCOME OF THE SIEGE. — V. 1. And King Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, whose original name had been Mattaniah, a brother of Jehoiakim, 2 Kings 24, 17, reigned instead of Coniah, or Jeconiah, the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, made king in the land of Judah, a mere vassal of the mighty Eastern ruler. V. 2. But neither he nor his servants, nor the people of the land did hearken unto the words of the Lord which He spake by the prophet Jeremiah. Cp. chap. 36, 31. V. 3. And Zedekiah, the king, sent Jehucal, the son of Shelemiah, one of his high officers, and Zephaniah, the son of Maaseiah, the priest, the highest church dignitary of the land at that time, chap. 21, 1; 29,25, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the Lord, our God, for us. This was, in the first place, an act of amazing stupidity in view of the king's deliberate disobedience, but also one of revolting hypocrisy, since Zedekiah feigned an allegiance to Jehovah which he was far from possessing. Zedekiah, moreover, did not seem to notice that his act was a further insult to Jeremiah, after the manner in which his messages had been received by the men in high places. V. 4. Now, Jeremiah came in and went out among the people, he was at that time unhampered in his movements; for they had not put him into prison, he was not in ward in the prison court, where he had been compelled to spend so much time before. V. 5. Then Pharaoh's army was come forth out of Egypt, Pharaoh-hophrah having undertaken to make war on the mighty Eastern ruler, probably as a result of a message sent by Zedekiah, Ezek. 17, 15; and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, received news of their approach, they departed from Jerusalem, they discontinued the siege in order to meet this new danger. Such were the circumstances at the time when Zedekiah sent his men to Jeremiah. V. 6. Then came the word of the Lord unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying, v. 7. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, the name expressing His majesty and power, Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah that sent you unto Me to inquire of Me: Behold, Pharaoh's army, which is come forth to help you, with the object, however, of trying to gain the world-power, shall return to Egypt, into their own land. It was foolish, therefore, for the people of Judah to attach too much importance to this temporary relief. V. 8. And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire. V. 9. Thus saith the Lord, Deceive not yourselves, by entertaining vain hopes, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us; for they shall not depart, they would not permanently discontinue their siege. V. 10. For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, according to the Hebrew, "such as had been severely wounded," yet should they rise up every man in his tent and burn this city with fire. As the disobedient Jews in this instance, so the unbelievers ever depend upon false conclusions and vain delusions in order to have some basis for their opposition to the Lord and His Word. But they merely deceive themselves.
JEREMIAH’S ARREST AND IMPRISONMENT. — V. 11. And it came to pass that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem, withdrawing for the time being in order to await developments or call for reinforcements, for fear of Pharaoh's army, so that the land, for a little while, was clear of enemies, v. 12. then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, the country of his own tribe, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people, literally, "to make a division of inheritance," his business probably consisting in his taking away the personal property which he had inherited. V. 13. And when be was in the Gate of Benjamin, the northern gate of Jerusalem, which led to the country of Benjamin and the northern province, a captain of the ward was there, one of the watchmen of the city of Jerusalem, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah, the prophet, placing him under arrest, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans. Since the Chaldeans had undoubtedly retired in a northerly direction, the accusation of Irijah had a semblance of right, although it was, as a matter of fact, nothing but base slander. V. 14. Then said Jeremiah, feeling a just resentment on account of the unjust accusation which was brought against him, 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, to the king's counselors, who sat in judgment with him. V. 15. Wherefore the princes, evidently of a different type from those who had taken his part under Jehoiakim, were wroth with Jeremiah and smote him, apparently without so much as a hearing, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan, the scribe, the chancellor, or secretary of state, for they had made that the prison, very likely because it contained subterranean cells, or cellars, which could readily be used for that purpose. V. 16. When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon and into the cabins, or underground vaults, and Jeremiah had remained there many days, in this unjust imprisonment, v. 17. then Zedekiah, the king, sent and took him out; and the king asked him secretly in his house, probably because he was ashamed to be seen by his courtiers, and said, Is there any word from the Lord? any revelation from Jehovah favorable to his cause. And Jeremiah said, There is, but not in the sense which Zedekiah had in mind; for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon. V. 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? He protested against the injustice of an imprisonment without so much as an attempt at a trial. V. 19. Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you nor against this land? Since the predictions of the false prophets had been found to be falsehoods, and since, on the other hand, the event prophesied by Jeremiah had come to pass, this, therefore, was a further argument for the fact that his arrest and imprisonment were acts of injustice. V. 20. Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king, let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee, his plea, according to the strongly figurative language of the Orient, being represented as falling down in supplication, that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan, the scribe, lest I die there, for the cells of the dungeon were anything but healthful places to live in for any length of time. V. 21. Then Zedekiah, the king, yielding at least to this extent, commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, where he at least had the advantages of light and air, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers' street, for in the Orient persons of the same trade or business often occupied their own streets and even their own quarters, until all the bread in the city were spent. Zedekiah either continued to feel resentful against Jeremiah for his prophetic sayings, or he, at least, did not have the courage of his convictions in setting him at liberty. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison. As in the case of Jeremiah, so today fearless testifying for and of the truth of the Lord is demanded of all who bear the name of His servants.