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Jeremiah 37:1 Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned as king, instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah- Jeconiah is now called Coniah; the "Yah" prefix is dropped from his name.

Jeremiah 37:2 But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, listened to the words of Yahweh, which He spoke by the prophet Jeremiah-
Zedekiah certainly listened to them and was apparently eager to do so; but we see here the crucial difference between listening, and really listening. This remains a challenge to us, and the more familiar we become with the text of Scripture, the more intense is the challenge. It can help to read the same text from different versions or even in different languages if we can; to by all means try to let God's word hit us afresh as if for the first time. Again we note the parallel between the leadership and the "people of the land"; they got the leadership they subconsciously wanted.

Jeremiah 37:3 Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah saying, Pray now to Yahweh our God for us-
God had three times told Jeremiah not to pray further for the people (Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11). But Jeremiah knew God well enough to still pray, and God was open enough to dialogue to still answer (:7). Zedekiah was no atheist- he wanted others to pray for him, although he personally would not hear God's word (:1). And he was earnestly interested in knowing whether there was any word from God for him (:17). We note Zedekiah's diffidence to approach Jeremiah directly; perhaps "the priest" was a relative of Jeremiah.

The prayers were asked for at the very time when Judah's hopes were upon Egypt defeating the Babylonians (see on :6). Although Judah were often condemned for trusting the Egyptians rather than Yahweh, they still wanted Jeremiah to pray for Yahweh's help to be with the Egyptians. This is typical of how they committed spiritual adultery with multiple partners, mixing faith in Yahweh with faith in Egypt. See on :8.

Jeremiah 37:4 Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people; for they had not put him into prison-
To 'go in and out among' can be used as a metaphor for leadership or position of influence. But the term may simply mean he had free movement, and moved amongst the people with his message.

Jeremiah 37:5 Pharaoh’s army had come forth out of Egypt; and when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news of them, they broke up from Jerusalem-
It seems in essence that this situation will be repeated when the latter day Babylon as "king of the north" invades Israel (Dan. 11:44). Those who learnt anything from Bible history will see the similarity and put their faith in God rather than the hope of human deliverance. For Judah's faith was in Egypt rather than in their God.

Jeremiah 37:6 Then came the word of Yahweh to the prophet Jeremiah saying-
This prophecy was to address the way in which Judah were eagerly watching to see whether Egypt would defeat the Babylonians, and thereby lift the threat to them. As the prophets often lament, their faith was in Egypt and not in Yahweh. It might have seemed absolutely the wrong time to make this challenge to them; but it had to be said, in hope they would repent. See on :3.

Jeremiah 37:7 Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, You shall tell the king of Judah, who sent you to Me to inquire of Me-
This desire to get someone else to pray for you is often mentioned in the Bible. Israel could have had a direct relationship with God as they stood before Him at Sinai, but instead wanted Moses to mediate His word to them; Elymas wanted Peter to pray for him likewise. The unique feature of the one true God is that He invites personal relationship with Him; spirituality rather than mere mass religion.

Behold, Pharaoh’s army which has come forth to help you shall return to Egypt into their own land- The Egyptians had their own agenda for wanting to fight the Babylonians; they didn't come solely to save Judah. And yet that was how Judah liked to imagine it, and God here goes along with their reasoning.

Jeremiah 37:8 The Chaldeans shall return and fight against this city; and they shall take it-
As ever, reading all of Scripture enables us to see the wider picture. We know from Jer. 34:16 that the Jewish leadership 'returned' from their covenant to liberate the poorer brethren whom they had previously abused; and so the Chaldeans would 'return' and destroy them because of this. But in this prophecy, the overall summary is presented. But the return of the Chaldeans was in fact a conditional prophecy; it need not have happened if the Jews had repented meaningfully of their attitude to their poorer brethren.

And burn it with fire- The punishment for a whore, which is how Jerusalem had been to God through trusting in Egypt and other nations against Babylon. See on :3.

Jeremiah 37:9 Thus says Yahweh, Don’t deceive yourselves by saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us; for they shall not depart-
I noted on Jer. 4:10 that Jeremiah had falsely accused God of deceiving the people. This corrects him on this point; the people were self deceived, through listening to the deceit of their false prophets (Jer. 29:8). As explained on :8, the Chaldeans could have 'departed' from them if they had let depart their brethren whom they were abusing as servants and slaves (Jer. 34:16). But instead of doing this, they chose to deceive themselves that the Babylonians would in any case depart from them. We see here how people believe what is subconsciously convenient to them. And indeed the unregenerate human heart is the great deceiver, and not some cosmic being called Satan.

Jeremiah 37:10 For though you had struck the whole army of the Chaldeans who fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet would they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire-
The idea is that whatever temporary reverses the Babylonians might appear to suffer, the purpose of God was that they should be used to destroy Judah- unless the Jews repented. All human victories are but short term compared to the final judgment of God. And we need to get that right in our minds for all time. "Wounded" translates the word usually used for "thrust through", referring to the final death wound of a foe. The idea is therefore that even if they were struck down dead, they would be resurrected in order to do God's work against Judah. And this likewise was what could spiritually happen to Judah; they could be revived as the dry bones prophecy of Ez. 36 demonstrates. 

Jeremiah 37:11 It happened that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army-
"Was broken up" suggests someone broke them up. And that was God, in response to the Jews' apparent repentance of enslaving their brethren. Earlier they had asked Jeremiah to pray that the Chaldeans would be broken up from them (s.w. Jer. 21:2). God was not open to that request from Jeremiah- because the condition for the Chaldeans leaving was the peoples' repentance for abusing their brethren. Only they could do that, and no intercession from a third party could change that condition.

Jeremiah 37:12 then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to receive his portion there, in the midst of the people-
Jeremiah had been told to purchase a field, which he would receive at the restoration (Jer. 32:7-9). It seems this was a momentary lack of judgment on his part- he wanted his inheritance right away, rather than waiting for God's time. However, the Hebrew is difficult here. The  AV has "to separate himself thence in the midst of the people". It could equally mean that he had had enough of his ministry in Jerusalem and wanted to separate himself from being in the midst of an apostate people. He learnt his lesson- for at the end of his life, when given the choice of the easy life as guest of honour in Babylon or remaining in the ruined land of Judah, he chose to remain with God's people. And finally, when they disobeyed God and chose to flee to Egypt, Jeremiah went with them, to continue appealing to them. The Hebrew could also mean that he slipped through the gates hiding himself in the midst of the people. Whatever, these three translation options all suggest a not very good decision by Jeremiah. However, it could also be that he was being obedient to God's word- to go out to the Babylonians (Jer. 21:9; 38:2,18) in recognition of the fact that Judah had sinned and deserved to be dominated by their enemies in accordance with the covenant of Dt. 28. The fact the Chaldeans were in retreat at the time, apparently scared by the Egyptian army (:11), showed all the more faith on Jeremiah's part. But he was not allowed to do this act of faith and obedience by others- and so it can be with us. And yet when arrested, Jeremiah denies he is going to the Chaldeans (:14)- even though he had preached that this is what the Jews should do. So it does seem, however we look at this incident, that Jeremiah acted in momentary weakness.

Jeremiah 37:13 When he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the guard was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he laid hold on Jeremiah the prophet saying, You are falling away to the Chaldeans-
The details are given as if the cameraman is close up, to enable us to imagine the scene; and the full details of Irijah's family background are given because of the significance of his false accusation. There were Jews who had fallen away to the Chaldeans (s.w. Jer. 38:19), but the implication is that Jeremiah felt his motives to be totally different.

Jeremiah 37:14 Then Jeremiah said, It is false; I am not falling away to the Chaldeans. But he didn’t listen to him; so Irijah laid hold on Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes-
Jeremiah himself taught that Israel should surrender to the Babylonians, in accordance with God’s word. He himself tried to do this, in obedience; but he was caught by the Jews. He promptly denied that he was doing this, overcome by the patriotism of the moment, in a desire to save his skin (Jer. 37:14; 38:2).

Jeremiah 37:15 The princes were angry with Jeremiah and struck him and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the scribe; for they had made that the prison-
In this Jeremiah was a type of the Lord Jesus, indeed more than this- Jeremiah might have been a potential Messiah figure of some sort, but Judah rejected him. The way the servant is beaten, imprisoned and has his hair pulled out (Is. 50:4-11) reminds us of how the prophet Jeremiah was treated the same way by the Jews when his message was rejected (Jer. 20:2; Jer. 37:15). "Jonathan the scribe" may have been a secretary; or a religious scribe. His complicity is therefore the worse.

A study of “the princes” of Judah at the time of the final Babylonian invasion shows that they were not against Jeremiah nor responding to God’s word (Jer. 26:16; 36:14,19); indeed at one stage they pulled back from their path of refusing to respond (Jer. 34:10). But “the princes” were the ones whom Zedekiah feared (Jer. 38:25), and that fear led him to reject God’s word. And “the princes” were finally condemned for their weakness (Jer. 32:32); it was they who imprisoned and sought to kill Jeremiah because ultimately they could not abide his word (Jer. 37:15; 38:14). One person or a very small group can easily lead a whole group, even of believers, into sin. And so it is that whole groups of people- even God’s people- can be very fickle.


Jeremiah 37:16 When Jeremiah had come into the dungeon house and into the cells, and Jeremiah had remained there many days-
These "cells" were cabins excavated out of the sides of the shaft of the dungeon. "Many days" there would have left people with post traumatic stress if nothing else.

Jeremiah 37:17 then Zedekiah the king sent and fetched him: and the king asked him secretly in his house saying, Is there any word from Yahweh? Jeremiah said, There is. He said also, You shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon-
The 'word' that Zedekiah would be delivered into the hand of the Chaldeans had already been given several times by Jeremiah (Jer. 21:7; 22:25; 32:4; 34:3,21). Perhaps this was no new revelation, but rather Jeremiah reminding Zedekiah of God's word. We can seek some new insight, some new 'word from the Lord'- when actually the answer is staring us in the face in His word which we already know. We perceive that Zedekiah was desperate to hear God's word; despite being characterized as not listening to it (:2). The religious conscience within all men is strong; and those who have been exposed to the one true God will always be unable to totally forget Him. Zedekiah was asking for this revelation from God at the very time when all his hopes were pinned upon salvation from Egypt (:5); and yet even then, he had this uncanny sense that he needed revelation from Yahweh. We recall Saul's desperate seeking for God's word the night before he was killed.

Jeremiah 37:18 Moreover Jeremiah said to king Zedekiah, Wherein have I sinned against you, or against your servants, or against this people, that you have put me in prison?-
Jeremiah's questions were perhaps simply to plead for deliverance from what appeared certain death in the dungeon (:20). But perhaps he also was seeking for Zedekiah's repentance for having treated him like this. Jeremiah hoped this would be elicited by presenting Zedekiah with the question as to what, exactly, had Jeremiah done wrong? And what had provoked his imprisonment was his touching of the king's conscience by challenging him to repent. And Jeremiah was asking the king to recognize that, and live according to his conscience before Yahweh.

Jeremiah 37:19 Where now are your prophets who prophesied to you saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?-
"Your prophets" sounds as if Zedekiah had surrounded himself with those who spoke what he wanted to hear; it's as if he had appointed his personal prophets. We can effectively do the same, by listening only to those teachers whom we know are going to say that which we wish to hear.

Jeremiah 37:20 Now please hear, my lord the king: please let my supplication be presented before you, that you not cause me to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, unless I die there-
We sense the awful desperation of Jeremiah, facing a slow and miserable death. When Zedekiah called Jeremiah out of the prison house to meet him and show him the word of God, he ought to have perceived that he was going through the very experience of Pharaoh with Joseph (Jer. 37:17,20). Jeremiah’s desperate plea not to be sent back to prison to die there surely echoes that of Joseph to his brethren; for Jeremiah was let down like Joseph had been into a pit with no water in, so reminiscent of Joseph (Gen. 37:24). But Zedekiah didn’t want to see all this; he should’ve listened to Jeremiah, as Pharaoh had listened to Joseph and saved himself. It was all potentially set up for him; but he refused to take note.

Jeremiah 37:21 Then Zedekiah the king commanded and they committed Jeremiah into the court of the guard; and they gave him daily a loaf of bread out of the bakers’ street-
The events of chapter 38 show how this assurance was not kept by Zedekiah- a reflection of his powerlessness, as well as the weakness of his character. We sense Zedekiah wanting to do the right thing, to save God's prophet from death, even bringing him to live in the court of the guard within his own palace; and yet being so consumed by issues of image; and fears about irrelevancies that arise from assuming we are not going to die, nor face Divine judgment for our sins.

Until all the bread in the city was spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard- This could have been the words of Zedekiah, as if he recognized there would come about a point when all the bread was finished, and Jeremiah was to be fed until the very end. But the idea may be that it was when this point was reached that the walls were breached and the city fell (Jer. 52:6); as if to say that Jeremiah had bread right up to the end.