Attention!
10 million Ukrainians without power because of Russia. Help us purchase electrical generators for churches.
Consider helping today!

Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Jeremiah 38

Verses 1-6

JEREMIAH - CHAPTER 38

COUNSELLING JUDAH TO SURRENDER

Vs. 1-6: A THREAT TO JEREMIAH’S LIFE

1. As this chapter opens four of Zedekiah’s princes listen attentively as Jeremiah speaks to the people, (evidently from the palace stockade); Shephatiah, a prince who is otherwise unknown; Gedaliah the son of Pashur -though not of the governor by that name; Jehucal (Jeremiah 37:3); and Pashur (Jeremiah 21:1).

2. Faithfully and fearlessly Jeremiah delivered the word of the Lord to the people of Judah, (vs. 2-3).

a. Those who remain in the city of Jerusalem will perish by: sword, famine and pestilence - the same message that he has persistently proclaimed, (Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 34:17; Jeremiah 42:17).

b. If, however, they will surrender to the Chaldeans, their lives will be spared, (Jeremiah 39:18; Jeremiah 45:5).

c. Jerusalem will be given into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and his army!

3. The princes went directly to king Zedekiah (comp. Jeremiah 18:23; Jeremiah 26:11; Jeremiah 26:21) to demand the death of this man who, they claimed, was betraying his people - weakening their morale and causing the hands of the defenders of Jerusalem to droop, (vs. 4; comp. 1 Kings 18:17-18; 1 Kings 21:20; Ezra 4:12-13; Amos 7:10).

4. Like Pilate, when he washed his hands in the condemnation of the Messiah (Matthew 27:24), the answer of Zedekiah was what is today referred to as a scandalous "cop-out"! In essence, he answered: "Behold, he is in your hands; for the king cannot contradict the united counsel of his advisors!" (vs. 5; but comp. 2 Samuel 3:39).

5. Thus was Jeremiah cast into the cistern of Malchiah the son of Hammelech that was located in the court of the guard, (vs.6).

a. The water from this cistern had, long ago, been exhausted so that the only thing left was a filthy mire, (comp. Psalms 40:2; Psalms 69:2; Psalms 69:14 -­15; Zechariah 9:11).

b. Jeremiah was lowered into this mire by means of a rope; it was clearly the intention of his tormenters to leave him there, without food and water, until he died.

Verses 7-13

1. Hearing what had happened to Jeremiah, Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian official who was in the king’s service, sought out Zedekiah -accusing his princes of gross wickedness in what they had done to the faithful prophet of Jehovah, (vs. 7-9).

a. He told Zedekiah what evil they had done to the prophet.

b. He also declared the man of God to be "as good as dead" if he remained in the dungeon.

2. Thus was the conscience of the king so smitten that he countermanded his previous order and authorized Ebed-melech to use 30 men to assure Jeremiah’s safe rescue, (vs. 10).

3. With a sympathetic gentleness, Ebed-melech took the men and rescued Jeremiah from the slimy pit, (vs. 11-13).

a. In a storage room he found old rags and clothes which he asked Jeremiah to place under his arms so that the rope would not bruise him.

b. Then, with tender carefulness, he lifted him from the cistern and, though still a prisoner, restored him to the court of the prison.

Verses 14-23

Vs. 14-23: ZEDEKIAH SEEKS HIS FINAL COUNSEL FROM JEREMIAH

1. Secretly summoning Jeremiah to the third (royal) entrance of the temple, Zedekiah sought the prophet’s counsel - telling him that he wanted nothing hidden from him, (vs. 14; comp. Jeremiah 21:1-2; Jeremiah 37:17; Jeremiah 42:2-5; Jeremiah 42:20).

2. Not trusting the king, Jeremiah asked if Zedekiah would not both kill him and refuse his counsel if he answered freely, (vs. 15).

3. But Zedekiah solemnly, though secretly, vowed that he would not kill him, or deliver him again into the hands of his enemies, (vs. 16).

4. Reassured, Jeremiah sets before Zedekiah the frightening alternatives that he faces, (vs. 17-18).

a. Surrender to the king of Babylon, and both his life and house will be spared; nor will Jerusalem be burned.

b. If, however, he refuses to go out to the princes of Nebuchadnezzar, the city will fall to the Chaldeans and they will burn it with fire; nor will Zedekiah escape out of their hands, (vs. 18, 2; Jeremiah 21:8-10; Jeremiah 27:12; Jeremiah 27:17; Jeremiah 32:4; Jeremiah 34:3).

c. It would be foolish for the king to sacrifice his people, and the Holy City itself, for his own vanity and selfish ambitionl (comp. Jeremiah 27:8; Jeremiah 24:8-10; 2 Kings 25:4-10).

5. Zedekiah expressed fear of being delivered unto, and abused by, those Jews who had already deserted to the Chaldeans, (vs. 19; comp. Isaiah 51:12-13; Isaiah 57:11; John 19:12-13; 2 Chronicles 30:10); but Jeremiah assures him that such will not be the case: if he will obey the counsel of the Lord his SOUL WILL LIVEI (vs. 20; comp. Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 11:4-8; Jeremiah 26:13; 2 Chronicles 20:20; Isaiah 55:3).

6. But, if Zedekiah will NOT obey, he will surely be mocked by the women of his own palace who will desert him for the princes of Babylon, when they see the king’s feet sunk in the mire! (vs. 21-22; comp. vs. 6; Jeremiah 6:11-12; Jeremiah 8:10).

7. Upon the king’s decision hangs the destiny of his wives and children, the city of Jerusalem and his own life: HE MUST CHOOSE! (vs. 23; comp. Jeremiah 39:6; Jeremiah 41:10).

Verses 24-28

Vs. 24-28: CONFIDENTIALITY IMPOSED

1. Fearful for both his own life and that of Jeremiah, king Zedekiah asked the prophet not to reveal the full content of their exchange; if he did Zedekiah could not assure his safety, (vs. 24).

2. If the princes made inquiry concerning their conversations (comp. vs. 4-6), Jeremiah was to tell them that he had presented his plea that the king not send him back to the dungeon where he had almost died, (vs. 25-26; comp. Jeremiah 37:15; Jeremiah 37:20).

3. Those commentators who hasten to charge Jeremiah with cowardice, in granting the king’s request, may be manifesting their own unworthiness of such confidence as is reposed in spiritual counselor! furthermore, if the king was not pleased to fully reveal his own personal business to the princes of Judah, then Jeremiah certainly had no RIGHT to become a court gossip! (vs. 27; comp. 1 Samuel 10:15-16; 1 Samuel 16:2-5).

4. Jeremiah was not returned to the dungeon, but remained in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem fell to the Chaldean army, (vs. 28; comp. Jeremiah 15:20-21; Jeremiah 37:13-14; Psalms 23:4).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Jeremiah 38". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/jeremiah-38.html. 1985.