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Jeremiah 38:1 Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemiah and Pashhur the son of Malchijah heard the words that Jeremiah spoke to all the people saying- Gedaliah was the son of the Pashhur of Jer. 20:1 who had put Jeremiah in the stocks. Jucal is that of Jer. 37:3. The other Pashhur is that of Jer. 21:1.

Jeremiah 38:2 Thus says Yahweh, He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine and by the plague; but he who goes forth to the Chaldeans shall live, and his life shall be to him for a prey, and he shall live-
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 wanted to flee the city so as not to die; he very nearly did die of famine (:9), in order to achieve his total identification with his sinful people. This identification was why the Lord died the death of a criminal on the cross.

The prediction of death by plague in Jer. 21:6 was therefore conditional. Those prophetic words need not have come true if Israel had been obedient to this call to surrender. "Passes over" is literally "to fall down". They were to accept their condemnation, and thereby save their lives. Their lives would be to them "for a prey", literally, as booty taken from a conquered city. This was and is the great paradox- that surrender, acceptance of defeat, was the great spiritual victory. In the future, at the Lord's return, we will be saved from wrath (i.e. condemnation) through Christ (Rom. 5:9). Whilst this has already been achieved in a sense, it will be materially articulated in that day- in that we will feel and know ourselves to be worthy of God's wrath, but then be saved from it. We are all to some extent in the position of Zedekiah and the men of Judah, who was told that if they accepted God’s condemnation of them as just, and served the King of Babylon, then they would ultimately be saved; but if they refused to accept that condemnation, then they would be eternally destroyed (Jer. 21:9; 27:12). And the Babylonian invasion was a type of the final judgment.

Jeremiah 38:3 Thus says Yahweh, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it-
It was on one hand "sure" and certain, but right up to the very end, it was possible for Judah to repent and the siege to be lifted. 'Given... and taken' is the term used for how Yahweh gave the cities of Canaan to Israel and they took them (Josh. 10:32). He had given Jerusalem into the hand of their enemies- exactly the opposite of how people then understood a tribal god to act. He was supposed to always protect his city from the hand of their enemies, regardless of their morality. Yahweh was showing Himself to be so much more than mere religion, a simple tribal god. Denominationalism can be little more than believing in tribal deities.

Jeremiah 38:4 Then the princes said to the king, Please let this man be put to death; because he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words to them: for this man doesn’t seek the welfare of this people, but their hurt-
The hands of the Jews are contrasted with the hands of Babylon (:3). They were as it were arm wrestling against God's intentions. The Jews were to be repentant and "seek the welfare" or "peace" of Babylon, to the end Babylon might repent and become part of God's restored kingdom (Jer. 29:7). This was such a radically different agenda to that of the flesh. By their impenitence, the Jews were seeking hurt and not peace / welfare to themselves  (Am. 5:14 s.w.).

Jeremiah 38:5 Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand; for the king is not he who can do anything against you-
The LXX makes this clause a comment of the narrator (“For the king was not able..."). Jeremiah in :15 didn't consider this to be the case, understanding it rather as an excuse. Zedekiah ought to have reflected that his lack of hand / power in this matter was true on a larger scale too; for he had been given into the hand of the Babylonians (:3). God may bring a smaller scale situation into our lives to teach us of our powerlessness on a larger scale.

Jeremiah 38:6 Then they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchijah the king’s son, that was in the court of the guard-
AVmg. "the son of Hammelech" (Jer. 36:26). This was as it were the punishment cell within the prison.

And they let down Jeremiah with cords. In the dungeon there was no water, but mud; and Jeremiah sank in the mud- See on :22. The only way to eat would have been to have food lowered down, and seeing the city was suffering famine, chances of survival were slim. The pit in which there was no water would have reminded him of Joseph's experience (Gen. 37:24), and he may well have looked therefore towards some miraculous deliverance. His thoughts at this time are in Lam. 3, where he wrote in his mind a prayer or psalm about it. But he felt his prayers were shut out by the covering placed upon the dungeon (Lam. 3:8,53), and he was enclosed within hewn stone (Lam. 3:9)- what the dungeon walls were made of. It was presumably a sewer, with excrement falling before his face. He therefore felt he was in a living death and burial, surrounded by gravel stones as if in a grave (Lam. 3:16). His enemies mocked him from above (Lam. 3:14), pouring water that was probably excrement upon him (Lam. 3:54; as the dungeon was a sewer), his teeth were broken from the beating and perhaps from the descent into the dungeon (Lam. 3:16), and he felt bitter with God rather than full of faith and hope in deliverance (Lam. 3:15). But then his faith revived, reflecting how God had still not destroyed Judah by His great grace (Lam. 3:22), and therefore every day he survived until morning he saw as God's grace to him, in which he could hope (Lam. 3:23). He realized he was Judah's representative; for they too were to be sent forth from Babylon, the pit in which there was no water (Zech. 9:11). And this gave him hope; just as God's great grace to Israel historically should be basis for our hope. See on :13.

Jeremiah 38:7 Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon (the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin)-
This was the spot where Jeremiah had been arrested (Jer. 37:13) and earlier had been put in the stocks there (Jer. 20:2). Perhaps therefore the king's inner thoughts were upon Jeremiah, and Ebedmelech was guided therefore to approach the king at just the right time.

Jeremiah 38:8 Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house and spoke to the king saying-
He approached the king outside of the king's house, privately. Always we sense Zedekiah's concern about image and what others would think of him.

Jeremiah 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 likely to die in the place where he is-
Heb. "is dead of hunger on the spot". This kind of apparent exaggeration is common in Semitic languages.

Because of the famine- Jeremiah had frequently prophesied that the impenitent Jews were to die of the famine. Now, Jeremiah is on the brink of death because of famine. He was led by these experiences to absolutely identify with the condemned. Just as the Lord Jesus died the death of sinners, of a criminal, and thereby tasted death for every man. Being a captive in the dungeon who is released is exactly the language of Isaiah about the release of the exiles from captivity. Jeremiah was their example and personification. They could have followed his path, but chose to remain in that dark dungeon of Babylon.


For there is no more bread in the city- This was only true at the end (Jer. 52:6); if it were literally true, there would have been no point in releasing Jeremiah. This exaggerated language is not corrected, as often in the Biblical record.

Jeremiah 38:10 Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian saying, Take from here thirty men with you, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon before he dies-
That it would take thirty men to get Jeremiah out of the dungeon indicates the serious depth to which Jeremiah had sunk. And there was the possibility of opposition to Ebedmelech if he attempted to do this alone. We can imagine the racism against an Ethiopian, especially as Egypt / Ethiopia had now been shown to be false friends of Judah and powerless to help Judah. Yet God so loves to work through the despised and marginal.

Jeremiah 38:11 So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took from there rags and worn-out clothes and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah-
It was common in those days to symbolically tear clothes in grief. And what then happened to the clothes? They were kept in the treasury, as the material itself was valuable. These symbols of past repentance were used to save Jeremiah's life.

Jeremiah 38:12 Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, Put now these rags and worn-out clothes under your armpits under the cords. Jeremiah did so-
We note Ebedmelech's sensitivity, imagining how the cords would bite into Jeremiah's armpits unless there was some material to cushion them. His voice echoing down the sewer would have seemed as the voice of God responding to Jeremiah's feeble prayers as recorded in Lam. 3.

Jeremiah 38:13 So they drew up Jeremiah with the cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard-
Perhaps Jeremiah as Judah's representative experienced the 'drawing up' unto salvation offered to Judah in the new covenant, when he was "drawn up" out of certain death in the dungeon (Jer. 38:13, s.w. "with loving kindness have I drawn you [up]", Jer. 31:3). His hope in salvation from the pit was because he perceived he was Israel's representative; see on :6. The dungeon "was in the court of the guard" so Jeremiah would have lived continuously within sight of the dungeon of death, the ultimate punishment cell in the makeshift prison.
Jeremiah 38:14 Then Zedekiah the king sent and took Jeremiah the prophet to him into the third entry that is in the house of Yahweh-
Or, "the entry of the body-guard". Perhaps this was the king's special entry to the temple (2 Kings 16:18).

And the king said to Jeremiah, I will ask you something. Hide nothing from me- Zedekiah was aware that Jeremiah would be tempted to give him only some of God's word, hiding from him the harder parts. Zedekiah wanted God's truth, and yet was unprepared to act upon it. That is so true of so many people, and probably of all of us at some times and in some ways. To 'want to find the truth' can be trendy and attractive; but the question is not so much as to whether we have an interest in finding it, but will we do with it once confronted with it. See on :26.

Jeremiah 38:15 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you advice, you will not listen to me-
Jeremiah clearly didn't accept Zedekiah's plea of impotence in :5. Instead of simply begging Zedekiah for deliverance and saying what Zedekiah wanted to hear, Jeremiah comes over as absolutely committed to the truth of God's words about the situation.

Jeremiah 38:16 So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah saying, As Yahweh lives, who made us this soul, I will not put you to death-
The fact God has given us life ought to mean that we are truthful and honest in our words; and that we will seek to preserve the life of others rather than take it from them. This is all the implication of the most basic truth of the Genesis record- that God created man and made him a living soul / creature.

Neither will I give you into the hand of these men who seek your life- This may have been said with a nod towards "these men" nearby. It contradicts Zedekiah's excuse that he could do nothing against the will of his courtiers in :5. We too can plead weakness, railroading and impotence to justify our lack of purpose and commitment to principle.

Jeremiah 38:17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, Thus says Yahweh, the God of Armies, the God of Israel: If you will go forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, then your soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and you shall live, and your family
- Jeremiah picks up on Zedekiah's comment that God made us this soul (:16). This is the way towards dialogue; using the words and phrases of others and reframing them in a way which will therefore be the more persuasive to them. God here offers salvation from the whole judgment scenario for the sake of just one thing- if Zedekiah had surrendered to Babylon. Likewise if the Jews had properly released their bondservants, then the Babylonians would have departed. All the idolatry, murder and spiritual prostitution would have been overlooked just for the sake of one act of obedience. These offers were made in order to highlight the importance of the request being made- in this case, to accept the rightness of the Divine judgment for sin. Just one man's humility could have averted so much suffering. But human fear and pride was too great to allow it.

Jer. 34:5 says that "You shall die in peace; and with the burnings of your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so shall they make a burning for you; and they shall lament you saying, Ah Lord!". It surely has to be recognized that the ‘prophecy’ that Zedekiah would die in peace was conditional upon his obedience to the word of Jeremiah- even though those conditions aren’t recorded (although they are implicit surely).

Jeremiah 38:18 But if you will 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- God somehow arranged things within His purpose so that Zedekiah’s repentance would have enabled the salvation of all Israel. But his failure to repent meant that judgment came on His people. What this shows is that there are times and places where God is willing to save people for the sake of the spirituality of a third party, but if he or she fails in this, deliverance doesn’t necessarily arise from another place, as it would have done in Esther’s time.

And you shall not escape out of their hand- Zedekiah's attempt to escape the city was therefore made in conscious disobedience to these words.

Jeremiah 38:19 Zedekiah the king said to Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews who are fallen away to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand and they mock me-
These were the Jews who had accepted their judgment was just and had surrendered. They had likely been abused by Zedekiah and the Jewish leadership beforehand. And so he feared they would mock him. Jeremiah had used just this word about what would be done to Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jer. 6:9), but Zedekiah's pride was such that he feared the mocking of his fellow Jews more than he did that of the Babylonians. We have a window here into the extent of his pride, and the fears which arise from pride.

Jeremiah 38:20 But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver you. Obey, I beg you, the voice of Yahweh, in that which I speak to you: so it shall be well with you, and your soul shall live-
These Jews were those who had heeded Jeremiah's warnings and surrendered to the Chaldeans in recognition of their sins. They were therefore probably known to Jeremiah, and would therefore welcome Zedekiah's surrender. The implication is that Zedekiah's soul would not live unless her surrendered. But he didn't surrender. Yet by grace he was not killed, but actually died in peace in Babylon. Presumably he did therefore repent, and God by utter grace changed his deserved punishment.

Jeremiah 38:21 But if you refuse to go forth, this is the word that Yahweh has shown me-
The Hebrew for "refuse" is only elsewhere used of Pharaoh refusing to let Israel go (Ex. 8:2; 9:2; 10:4). The deliverance of Israel was likewise being allowed to hinge upon the humility or pride of one man. Zedekiah was surely intended to see the appeal to precedent in Biblical history, just as we often are. This is one advantage of being familiar with the text and basic narrative of the Bible through daily Bible reading.

Jeremiah 38:22 behold, all the women who 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, Your familiar friends have deceived you and have prevailed over you. Your feet are now sunk in the mud, and they now turn away from you-
Preaching has to be personal. For God is all about the salvation of persons; and He hungers for intimacy with her persons whom He has created. We each make an individual witness, and that witness is intended by God to be uniquely suitable for certain people within our sphere of contact. Jeremiah is an example of how our witness to others should be framed in the language of our own experiences, thus giving it credibility. He had just been in the dungeon, where he had sunk down in the mud (Jer. 38:6). But he soon afterwards appeals to Zedekiah to have the courage to do what God wants and not what his princes think is humanly smarter. Metaphorically, Jeremiah says, it was Zedekiah whose “feet are sunk in the mire” (Jer. 38:22). ‘Spiritually, you’re like I was physically’, was what Jeremiah was saying. And because he personalized his message in this way, it became all the more credible. Thus a blind brother can speak about our spiritual blindness with an obvious appropriacy and credibility which the sighted lack. This is why all witness simply has to be personal- impersonal handing out of tracts or hiding behind web sites on the internet isn’t the essentially personal witness which God intended.

Jeremiah 38:23 They shall bring out all your wives and your children to the Chaldeans; and you shall not escape out of their hand, but shall be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon: and you shall cause this city to be burned with fire-
Zedekiah's attempt to escape the city was therefore made in conscious disobedience to these words. We note the emphasis upon the suffering of women and children  (:22,23). It is simply so that there are consequences of human sin which mean that others are affected far beyond the sinner. The innocent suffer because of the sins of others. That is why sin is so multi dimensional; although in this case it would be true to say that the women themselves were also guilty of idolatry (Jer. 7:18; 44:17). But this could have been overlooked for the sake of one man's humble repentance.

Jeremiah 38:24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and you shall not die-
Again, his claim of being impotent to save Jeremiah in :5 is shown to be false. He was worried lest it become known that God had made this deal with him, whereby his repentance alone could radically affect the outcome for Jerusalem. Again, his pride and concern about image is so pathetically apparent. His offer of not killing Jeremiah if he didn't publish this latest word from the Lord is in fact similar to what he imagined the princes' position would be (:25). So this was but a carefully calculated offer.

Jeremiah 38:25 But if the princes hear that I have talked with you, and they come to you and tell you, Declare to us now what you have said to the king; don’t hide it from us, and we will not put you to death; also what the king said to you-
This connects with how Zedekiah had asked Jeremiah not to "hide" God's word from him; see on :26.

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 38:26 then you shall tell them, I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house to die there-
The dungeon of death was in the court of the guard, where Jeremiah was now located. He likely was quartered just meters away from it. "Jonathan's house" was perhaps a name for that dungeon of death. And Jeremiah surely had requested this, and so this was not untrue; but it was a hiding from the princes of what had really transpired. Zedekiah had asked Jeremiah not to do this to him, but to give full disclosure of God's word (:14). He ought to have reflected upon this inconsistency, and instead have openly told the princes of the situation and his obedience  to God's word.

Jeremiah 38:27 Then came all the princes to 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-
The fact we are now reading of it shows that it was of course finally perceived. LXX "And they were silent, because the word of the Lord was not heard". Zedekiah heard the word, but didn't really hear it; just as we can hear and read the word of God but not really hear it. This surface level hearing of God's word becomes a more acute temptation as we become the more familiar with the Bible text.

Jeremiah 38:28 So Jeremiah stayed in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken
- We imagine the Babylonian soldiers closing in on the court, the guards fleeing, and the soldiers encountering the grateful but confused prisoners.