Jer 38:1-28. Jeremiah
Predicts the Capture of Jerusalem, for Which He Is Cast into a Dungeon,
but Is Transferred to the Prison Court on the Intercession of
Ebed-melech, and Has a Secret Interview
All this was subsequent to his imprisonment in
Jonathan's house, and his release on his interview with Zedekiah. The
latter occurred before the return of the Chaldeans to the siege;
the similar events in this chapter occurred after it.
1. Jucal—Jehucal (Jer 37:3).
Pashur—(Jer 21:1; compare Jer 21:9 with Jer 38:2). The deputation in Jer 21:1, to whom Jeremiah gave this reply, if
not identical with the hearers of Jeremiah (Jer 38:1), must have been sent just before the
latter "heard" him speaking the same words. Zephaniah is not
mentioned here as in Jer 21:1, but
is so in Jer 37:3.
Jucal is mentioned here and in the previous deputation (Jer 37:3), but not in Jer 21:1. Shephatiah and Gedaliah
here do not occur either in Jer 21:1 or
37:3. The identity of his
words in both cases is natural, when uttered, at a very short interval,
and one of the hearers (Pashur) being present on both occasions.
unto all the people—They had free
access to him in the court of the prison (Jer 32:12).
2. life … a prey—He shall escape
with his life; though losing all else in a shipwreck, he shall carry
off his life as his gain, saved by his going over to the Chaldeans.
(See on Jer 21:9).
4. Had Jeremiah not had a divine commission,
he might justly have been accused of treason; but having one, which
made the result of the siege certain, he acted humanely as interpreter
of God's will under the theocracy, in advising surrender (compare Jer 26:11).
5. the king is not he—Zedekiah was a
weak prince, and now in his straits afraid to oppose his princes. He
hides his dislike of their overweening power, which prevented him
shielding Jeremiah as he would have wished, under complimentary
speeches. "It is not right that the king should deny aught to such
faithful and wise statesmen"; the king is not such a one as to deny you
your wishes [Jerome].
6. dungeon—literally, the "cistern." It
was not a subterranean prison as that in Jonathan's house (Jer 37:15), but a pit or cistern, which had been
full of water, but was emptied of it during the siege, so that only
"mire" remained. Such empty cisterns were often used as prisons (Zec 9:11); the depth forbade hope of
Hammelech—(Jer 36:26). His son followed in the father's
steps, a ready tool for evil.
sunk in the mire—Jeremiah herein was a
type of Messiah (Ps 69:2, 14). "I sink in deep mire," &c.
7. Ebed-melech—The Hebrew
designation given this Ethiopian, meaning "king's servant." Already,
even at this early time, God wished to show what good reason there was
for calling the Gentiles to salvation. An Ethiopian stranger saves the
prophet whom his own countrymen, the Jews, tried to destroy. So the
Gentiles believed in Christ whom the Jews crucified, and Ethiopians
were among the earliest converts (Ac 2:10, 41; 8:27-39). Ebed-melech probably was keeper of the
royal harem, and so had private access to the king. The eunuchs over
harems in the present day are mostly from Nubia or Abyssinia.
8. went forth … and spake—not
privately, but in public; a proof of fearless magnanimity.
9. die for hunger in the place where he is; for
… no … bread in … city—(Compare Jer 37:21). He had heretofore got a piece of
bread supplied to him. "Seeing that there is the utmost want of
bread in the city, so that even if he were at large, there could
no more be regularly supplied to him, much less now in a place
where none remember or pity him, so that he is likely to die for
hunger." "No more bread," that is, no more left of the public
store in the city (Jer 37:21);
or, all but no bread left anywhere [Maurer].
10. with thee—Hebrew, "in thine
hand," that is, at "thy disposal" (1Sa 16:2). "From hence," that is, from the gate
of Benjamin where the king was sitting (Jer 38:7).
thirty men—not merely to draw up
Jeremiah, but to guard Ebed-melech against any opposition on the part
of the princes (Jer 38:1-4), in executing the king's command.
Ebed-melech was rewarded for his faith, love, and courage, exhibited at
a time when he might well fear the wrath of the princes, to which even
the king had to yield (Jer 39:16-18).
11. cast clouts—"torn clothes" [Henderson].
rotten rags—"worn-out garments." God
can make the meanest things His instruments of goodness to His people
under … armholes—"under the
joints of thine hands," that is, where the fingers join the hand, the
clothes being in order that the hands should not be cut by the cords
13. court of … prison—Ebed-melech
prudently put him there to be out of the way of his enemies.
14. third entry—The Hebrews in
determining the position of places faced the east, which they
termed "that which is in front"; the south was thus called "that
which is on the right hand"; the north, "that which is on the
left hand"; the west, "that which is behind." So beginning with
the east they might term it the first or principal entry;
the south the second entry; the north the
"third entry" of the outer or inner court [Maurer]. The third gate of the temple facing the
palace; for through it the entrance lay from the palace into the temple
10:5, 12). It was westward
(1Ch 26:16, 18; 2Ch 9:11) [Grotius]. But in the future temple it is eastward
46:1, 2, 8).
15. wilt thou not hearken unto
me—Zedekiah does not answer this last query; the former one
he replies to in Jer 38:16.
Rather translate, "Thou wilt not hearken to me." Jeremiah judges so
from the past conduct of the king. Compare Jer 38:17 with Jer
16. Lord … made us this
Implying, "may my life (soul) be forfeited if I deceive thee" [Calvin].
17. princes—(Jer 39:3). He does not say "to the king himself,"
for he was at Riblah, in Hamath (Jer 39:5; 2Ki 25:6). "If thou go forth" (namely, to
surrender; 2Ki 24:12; Isa 36:16), God foreknows future conditional
contingencies, and ordains not only the end, but also the means
to the end.
19. afraid of the Jews—more than of God
(Pr 29:25; Joh 9:22; 12:43).
mock me—treat me injuriously (1Sa 31:4).
22. women—The very evil which Zedekiah
wished to escape by disobeying the command to go forth shall befall him
in its worst form thereby. Not merely the Jewish deserters shall "mock"
38:19), but the very "women"
of his own palace and harem, to gratify their new lords, will taunt
him. A noble king in sooth, to suffer thyself to be so imposed on!
Thy friends—Hebrew, "men of thy
peace" (see Jer 20:10; Ps 41:9, Margin). The king's ministers
and the false prophets who misled him.
sunk in … mire—proverbial for,
Thou art involved by "thy friends'" counsels in inextricable
difficulties. The phrase perhaps alludes to Jer 38:6; a just retribution for the treatment of
Jeremiah, who literally "sank in the mire."
they are turned … back—Having
involved thee in the calamity, they themselves shall provide for their
own safety by deserting to the Chaldeans (Jer 38:19).
23. children—(Jer 39:6;
41:10). "wives …
children … thou"; an ascending climax.
24. Let no man know—If thou wilt not
tell this to the people, I will engage thy safety.
25. Kings are often such only in title; they
are really under the power of their subjects.
26. presented—literally, "made my
supplication to fall"; implying supplication with humble prostration
(see on Jer 36:7).
Jonathan's house—(Jer 37:15), different from Malchiah's dungeon
38:6). This statement was
true, though not the whole truth; the princes had no right to the
information; no sanction is given by Scripture here to Jeremiah's
representation of this being the cause of his having come to the king.
Fear drove him to it. Compare Ge 20:2, 12; on the other hand, 1Sa 16:2, 5.
left off speaking with—Hebrew,
"were silent from him," that is, withdrawing from him they left him
28. he was there when Jerusalem was
taken—These words are made the beginning of the thirty-ninth
chapter by many; but the accents and sense support English