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Jeremiah in the Cistern


Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah was saying to all the people, 2Thus says the L ord, Those who stay in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but those who go out to the Chaldeans shall live; they shall have their lives as a prize of war, and live. 3Thus says the L ord, This city shall surely be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon and be taken. 4Then the officials said to the king, “This man ought to be put to death, because he is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” 5King Zedekiah said, “Here he is; he is in your hands; for the king is powerless against you.” 6So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. Now there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.

Jeremiah Is Rescued by Ebed-melech

7 Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. The king happened to be sitting at the Benjamin Gate, 8So Ebed-melech left the king’s house and spoke to the king, 9“My lord king, these men have acted wickedly in all they did to the prophet Jeremiah by throwing him into the cistern to die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.” 10Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, “Take three men with you from here, and pull the prophet Jeremiah up from the cistern before he dies.” 11So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to the house of the king, to a wardrobe of the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes. 12Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Just put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.” Jeremiah did so. 13Then they drew Jeremiah up by the ropes and pulled him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

Zedekiah Consults Jeremiah Again

14 King Zedekiah sent for the prophet Jeremiah and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the L ord. The king said to Jeremiah, “I have something to ask you; do not hide anything from me.” 15Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I tell you, you will put me to death, will you not? And if I give you advice, you will not listen to me.” 16So King Zedekiah swore an oath in secret to Jeremiah, “As the L ord lives, who gave us our lives, I will not put you to death or hand you over to these men who seek your life.”

17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the L ord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, If you will only surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 18But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be handed over to the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand.” 19King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, for I might be handed over to them and they would abuse me.” 20Jeremiah said, “That will not happen. Just obey the voice of the L ord in what I say to you, and it shall go well with you, and your life shall be spared. 21But if you are determined not to surrender, this is what the L ord has shown me— 22a vision of all the women remaining in the house of the king of Judah being led out to the officials of the king of Babylon and saying,

‘Your trusted friends have seduced you

and have overcome you;

Now that your feet are stuck in the mud,

they desert you.’

23 All your wives and your children shall be led out to the Chaldeans, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand, but shall be seized by the king of Babylon; and this city shall be burned with fire.”

24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone else know of this conversation, or you will die. 25If the officials should hear that I have spoken with you, and they should come and say to you, ‘Just tell us what you said to the king; do not conceal it from us, or we will put you to death. What did the king say to you?’ 26then you shall say to them, ‘I was presenting my plea to the king not to send me back to the house of Jonathan to die there.’ ” 27All the officials did come to Jeremiah and questioned him; and he answered them in the very words the king had commanded. So they stopped questioning him, for the conversation had not been overheard. 28And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken.

Here again Zedekiah shews his anxiety, lest Jeremiah should be apprehended, were the princes unexpectedly to assail him; for he might in this respect have stumbled, though admonished. Then the king intimated to him what to answer, in case the counselors came to him and made inquiry respecting their intercourse. He then advised him simply to say, that he entreated him not to send him back to the filthy pit, where he almost perished. The miserable servitude of the king appears now still evident; for he feared his own counselors, lest they should revolt from him. he might easily have made a spontaneous surrender of himself, but he dared not, lest he should be killed by them in a tumult; and yet, on the other hand, he feared lest the princes should despise him, and so redeem themselves by the sacrifice of his life.

We see in what straits he was, but God rendered to him a just recompense for his obstinacy. It was indeed a miserable thing to hear that the king’ was thus oppressed on every side, but the cause of all this ought ever to be borne in mind; which was, that he had despised God and his Prophet. He then deserved to be in this state of anxiety, to fear death on every side, and not to be able to extricate himself from those cares and perplexities which tormented him.

Let us then learn to cast all our cares on God, so that our life may be safe, and that we may have calm and tranquil minds: otherwise what is written in the Law must necessarily happen to us,

“Our life will hang on a thread, so that we shall say in the morning, Who will give us to see the evening? and in the evening, How can we live to the morning?” (Deuteronomy 28:66, 67)

Lest then the same thing happen to us as to this miserable king, let us learn to re-cumb on God, for this is the only way to obtain peace.

For though Zedekiah set before Jeremiah the danger which he might bring on himself, if he confessed what took place between them, he yet had a regard no doubt to his own safety, for his care for the Prophet was not very great. If, then, he says, the princes will hear that I have spoken to him, etc. We see here, that as kings very curiously inquire into the sayings and actions of all, so they in their turn are exposed to innumerable spies, who observe all their secret proceedings. Zedekiah, as we have already seen, left his palace, sought some secret place, and at the third entrance called to him Jeremiah. This place might be deemed in some measure secret, yet he knew that he was observed even by his own servants.

Thus kings, while they seek immoderate splendor, renounce the main good, which ought to be preferred to all other things. For it is commonly said that liberty is an invaluable gift, and it is very true: but were we to seek for liberty among mankind, we should by no means find it in courts; for all there are slaves, and slavery begins with the most elevated. Kings, then, while they thus seek from their height to look down on all mankind, are placed, as it were, in a theater, and the eyes of all turn to them, so that no liberty remains for them; and they who hang on their favor are also in constant fear. This, then, ought to be noticed by us; for there is no one who does not seek splendor; but yet we know how anxious is the life of princes. Their external appearance is indeed very flattering; but we do not see what inward torments harass them. When, therefore, it is said of Zedekiah, that he could not have a secret conference, it hence appears that kings are by no means free.

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