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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.

Zedekiah doubtless knew that wrong was done to the holy Prophet; for though he wished him to remain as he was, yet he knew that the Prophet had not threatened the people from ill-will or a hostile mind; and he was thus conscious that he had to do with God rather than with a mortal man. However this may have been, he knew that Jeremiah was not an enemy to the public safety according to the charge brought by the princes. He might then have wished to deliver the Prophet from their hands, but he submitted to their fury; for he was divested of all regal power, and was become, as it were, a slave to his own counselors, on whom depended the government of the kingdom.

They wrongly explain this verse, who think that the king spoke honorably of his counselors, as though he had said, that such was their prudence and dignity, that nothing could be denied them. They pervert the meaning of the Prophet; for the king, on the contrary, acknowledges here, that he was reduced to such a condition, as though he were a private individual, he, in short, confessed that he was the servant of servants; “Now I see,” he says, “that I am no king, but that ye so rule, that, willing or unwilling, I am forced to yield to you, even in the best cause.” There is then no doubt but that it was the bitter complaint of the king when he said, The king can do nothing against you. 110110     “The king,” observes Blayney, “evidently speaks this in disgust with the princes, for endeavoring to frustrate his clemency.” — Ed.

But Zedekiah deserved this degradation: for he ought to have been from the beginning more teachable, and to submit to God. But in the first place, as we have seen, he had despised prophetic doctrine, and hearkened not to the voice of God; and in the second place, he revolted perfidiously from the Chaldean king, and became thus guilty of ingratitude, for when his nephew was dethroned, that is, Jeconiah or Coniah, he obtained the regal power through the favor of the king of Babylon. He had therefore been ungrateful in denying tribute to him. But his impiety was the main cause of all evils. As then he had been such a rebel against God, he deserved that the princes should prove rebels to him. He then degraded himself, and deprived himself of royal authority, when he refused submission to the word of God, and also when he denied tribute to the king of Babylon. It was no wonder, then, that God made him subject to the princes and counselors, who were yet his servants.

As to these couriers, their arrogance was inexcusable in daring to condemn Jeremiah; for this was to take away from the king his own right; Die let this man, for he is worthy of death. Why was it that they were not content with accusing him, without assuming also to be his sole judges? As, then, they treated the king so disrespectfully, there is no doubt but they were despisers of God, when they deemed as nothing the royal dignity. But as to the king, he reaped, as I have said, the fruit of his own impiety, for he had not given to God his due honor in embracing the truth taught by the Prophet. It was therefore necessary, that he should be unworthily and contumeliously treated, so that he dared not to say even one word in behalf of a just and good cause. This was the reason why he said, He is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you

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