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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 37

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah.

Coniah - curtailed from Jeconiah by way of reproach.

Whom - referring to Zedekiah, not to Coniah (2 Kings 24:17).

Verse 2

But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the LORD, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.

But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people ... did hearken unto the words or the Lord ... by ... Jeremiah. Amazing stupidity, that they were not admonished by the punishment of Jeconiah! (Calvin.) (2 Chronicles 36:12; 2 Chronicles 36:14.)

Verse 3

And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the LORD our God for us.

Zedekiah ... sent to ... Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the Lord our God for us. Zedekiah's reason for applying to Jeremiah to intercede with God was, he feared lest, in the event of the Chaldeans overcoming Pharaoh-hophra, they should return to besiege Jerusalem. See note in beginning of Jeremiah 21:1-14; that chapter chronologically comes in between Jeremiah 37:1-21 and Jeremiah 38:1-28. The message of the king to Jeremiah here in Jeremiah 37:1-21 is somewhat earlier than that in Jeremiah 21:1-14;-here it is while the issue between the Chaldeans and Pharaoh was undecided; there it is when, after the repulse of Pharaoh, the Chaldeans were again advancing against Jerusalem: hence, while Zephaniah is named in both embassies, Jehucal accompanies him here, Pashur there. But as Pashur and Jehucal are both mentioned in Jeremiah 38:1-2 as hearing Jeremiah's reply, which is identical with that in Jeremiah 21:9, it is probable the two messages followed one another at a short interval; that in this Jeremiah 37:3, and the answer (Jeremiah 37:7-10), being the earlier of the two.

Zephaniah - an abettor of rebellion against God (Jeremiah 29:25), though less virulent than many (Jeremiah 29:29), punished accordingly (Jeremiah 52:24-27) by a violent death at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.

Verse 4

Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison.

Jeremiah ... they had not put him into prison. He was no longer in the prison court, as he had been (Jeremiah 32:2; Jeremiah 33:1); which passages refer to the beginning of the siege, not to the time when the Chaldeans renewed the siege, after having withdrawn for a time to meet Pharaoh.

Verse 5

Then Pharaoh's army was come forth out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem.

Pharaoh's army was come forth out of Egypt, and ... the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem ... departed. After this temporary diversion caused by Pharaoh in favour of Jerusalem, the Egyptians returned no more to its help (2 Kings 24:7), having been themselves crippled, and deprived of all the territory they had acquired from the Euphrates to the river of Egypt, the Nile. Judea had the misfortune to lie between the two great contending powers, Babylon and Egypt, and so was exposed to the alternate inroads of the one or the other. Josiah, taking side with Assyria, fell in battle with Pharaoh-necho at Megiddo (2 Kings 23:29). Zedekiah, having sought the Egyptian alliance in violation of his oath by God of fealty to the King of Babylon, was now about to be taken by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chronicles 36:13; Ezekiel 17:15; Ezekiel 17:17).

Verse 6

Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 7

Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to inquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh's army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land.

Pharaoh's army, which is come forth to help you, shall return - without accomplishing any deliverance for you.

Verse 8

And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire.

The Chaldeans shall come again - (Jeremiah 34:22).

Verse 9

Thus saith the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart.

Deceive not yourselves - Hebrew, 'your souls.'

Verse 10

For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.

Though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans ... and there remained but wounded men ... yet ... they - even a few wounded men would suffice for your destruction.

Verse 11

And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's army,

When the army of the Chaldeans was broken up - `gone up.'

Verse 12

Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.

Jeremiah went forth ... to go into ... Benjamin - to his own town, Anathoth.

To separate himself -- margin translates, 'to slip away' [lachªliq], from a Hebrew root 'to be smooth,' so to slip away as a slippery thing that cannot be held. But it is not likely the prophet of God would flee in a dishonourable way; and "in the midst of the people" rather implies open departure along with others than clandestine slipping away by mixing with the crowd of departing people. Rather, it means to withdraw, to separate himself, or to divide his place of residence, so as to live partly here, partly there, without fixed habitation going to and fro among the people (Ludovicus de Dieu). Maurer translates, 'to take his portion thence' to realize the produce of his property in Anathoth (Henderson), or to take possession of the land which he bought from Hanameel (Maurer).

Verse 13

And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans.

A captain of the ward - i:e., a captain of the guard or watch.

The son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah - whose death Jeremiah predicted (Jeremiah 28:16): the grandson in revenge takes Jeremiah into custody on the charge of deserting ("thou fallest away," Jeremiah 38:19; Jeremiah 52:15; 1 Samuel 29:3) to the enemy. His prophecies gave colour to the charge (Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 38:4).

Verse 14

Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 15

Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison.

The princes ... put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe - one of the court secretaries. Often in the East part of the private house of a public officer serves as a prison.

Verse 16

When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days;

The dungeon ... the cabins. The prison consisted of a pit (the "dungeon") with vaulted cells round the sides of it. [ Hachªnuyowt (H2588), the Hebrew for "cabins," comes from a root, chaanaah, to bend one's self]

Verse 17

Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the LORD? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.

The king asked him secretly. Zedekiah was ashamed to be seen by his courtiers consulting Jeremiah (John 12:43; John 5:44, "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only." So Joseph of Arimathea came originally to Jesus "secretly, for fear of the Jews," but with a very different issue from that of Zedekiah, John 19:38).

Thou shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon Had Jeremiah consulted his earthly interests he would have answered very differently. Contrast the "smooth" flatteries of the false prophets, saying, "Peace, peace, when there was no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14; Isaiah 30:10; Ezekiel 13:10).

Verse 18

Moreover Jeremiah said unto king Zedekiah, What have I offended against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison?

What - in what respect have I offended?

Verse 19

Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?

Where are now your prophets? The event has shown them to be liars; and as surely as the King of Babylon has come already, notwithstanding their prophecy, so surely shall he return.

Verse 20

Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.

Let my supplication be accepted - rather, 'let my supplication be humbly presented' (Jeremiah 36:7, note). (Henderson.)

Lest I die there - in the subterranean dungeon (Jeremiah 37:16) from want of proper sustenance (Jeremiah 37:21). The prophet naturally shrank from death, which makes his spiritual firmness the more remarkable: he was ready to die rather than swerve from his duty (Calvin).

Verse 21

Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers' street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.

Zedekiah commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison - (Jeremiah 32:2; Jeremiah 38:13; Jeremiah 38:28).

Bakers' street. Persons in the same business commonly reside in the same street in cities in the East.

Until all the bread ... spent. Jeremiah had bread supplied to him until he was thrown into the dungeon of Malchiah, at which time the bread in the city was spent. Compare this verse with Jeremiah 38:9; that time must have been very shortly before the capture of the city (Jeremiah 52:6). God saith of His children, "In the days of famine they shall be satisfied" (Psalms 37:19; Isaiah 33:16). Honest reproof (Jeremiah 37:17) in the end often gains more favour than flattery (Proverbs 28:23).


(1) Zedekiah and the people of Jerusalem, with the fate of Jehoiakim and Jeconiah, the immediately preceding kings, before their eyes, yet trod in the same steps of impiety which had brought ruin on those two kings, and serious loss to their subjects. Multitudes witness the ruinous consequences of other men's sins, and yet, with reckless infatuation, follow the same deadly paths (Jeremiah 37:2).

(2) While the issue of the diversion made in favour of Jerusalem by the Egyptian army under Pharaoh-hophra was as yet uncertain, Zedekiah applied to Jeremiah to intercede with God for the deliverance of the Jewish people from the King of Babylon, who had come to besiege their capital. The worldly and ungodly are glad to have recourse to the once-despised people of God for intercessory prayers in times of danger and distress. But no intercessions can be of any avail that are craved by those who only wish an escape from justly-merited punishment, but have no desire for repentance and deliverance from sin. Therefore, Jeremiah tells Zedekiah plainly that the deliverance given to Jerusalem through the Egyptian army is but for a time, and that the Chaldeans will return and take the city and burn it (Jeremiah 37:5-8). If God be not for us, vain is the help of man. If He will not help us, no creature can. When He is against us, the feeblest and most unlikely instruments, as for instance "wounded men" (Jeremiah 37:10), are sufficient to execute God's wrath upon us.

(3) Sinners most frequently "deceive themselves" (Jeremiah 37:9) with the thought that, because there is a respite, the sentence of judgment will not be executed at all. Like Agag, the doomed Amalekite king, they say, "Surely the bitterness of death is past" (1 Samuel 15:32). And "because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily," thinking that sin will escape punishment altogether, their, "heart is fully set in them to do evil." But "though a sinner's days be prolonged" (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13), it is only so in appearance; "he shall not" really "prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he feareth not before God."

(4) Jeremiah was apprehended as a deserter to the Chaldeans, when he was merely withdrawing to his native place, Anathoth, from the scenes of turmoil in the metropolis. But had that been his object, there would have been doubtless many better opportunities of doing so than when the Chaldean army was broken up from the siege of Jerusalem, and had withdrawn in the direction of the Egyptian army (Jeremiah 37:11). He could only protest his innocence, and commit himself and his cause to Him who knoweth all hearts; and the prophet who had told the truth from God again and again, at the cost of shame and the peril of his life, in the face of a hostile court-and who, had he consented to utter flattering lies, would have insured to himself honours from the king-was committed, as a liar and a traitor, to the lowest dungeon, just because he spake the truth (Jeremiah 37:16). But Jeremiah's is no unprecedented case of the ungodly treating the best friends of the state as if they were her worst enemies.

(5) Still, what a striking testimony to the force of truth its enemies are often compelled to give, in spite of themselves! Zedekiah the king secretly sent for him who was ostensibly imprisoned for unfaithfulness and treachery to his country, as the only one who was favoured with, and who could declare the revelations of the God of truth. Surely "their rock is not as our rock, even our enemies themselves being judges" (Deuteronomy 32:31).

(6) Arrived in the king's presence, whereas he had every inducement of regard to life and liberty to induce him to soften the sternness of the threat of Yahweh, he diminishes not a word in order to win the king's favour or avert his resentment, but plainly announces the "word from the Lord:" "Thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon" (Jeremiah 37:17). What makes this unflinching faithfulness the more remarkable is, that Jeremiah was naturally of a timid, sensitive nature; and, accordingly, presently after this extraordinary display of spiritual firmness in the cause of God, we find the same man, in making his request on his own behalf, submissive and supplicatory (Jeremiah 37:18-20). The natural instincts of the believer make him shrink from death, and yet so entirely can the Spirit gain the dominion over the flesh, that in the cause of his Lord he is ready to brave death rather than be unfaithful to his Divine Master.

(7) In the end, faithfulness to God often wins involuntary respect and favour to the children of God from the children of the world. Zedekiah, to his credit, instead of punishing the prophet for his holy boldness and truth-speaking, ameliorated his condition as a prisoner, and provided that he should be supplied with bread so long as there was any left in the city (Jeremiah 37:21). The Lord can make even the cells of a prison the abode of peace, and will never break His word, that when a man's ways please Him, He will make even His enemies to be at peace with Him. Whosoever may want, the children of God have a never-failing supply for all their real needs, engaged to them out of the riches of God's grace.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 37". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-37.html. 1871-8.
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