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Request From Zedekiah
Zedekiah, the brother of Jehoiakim, becomes king in the place of Coniah or Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim (Jer 37:1; 2Chr 36:10). This fulfills the word of judgment on the wicked Jehoiakim (Jer 36:30). Zedekiah becomes king because Nebuchadnezzar makes him king. With Zedekiah taking office as king over Judah begins the final phase of the two tribes realm in the land. Zedekiah is a man who does not listen to the words of the LORD, nor do his servants and the people of the land (Jer 37:2). This is how widespread the apostasy is.
The fact that he does not listen to the words of the LORD does not mean that he has rejected the LORD, as did Jehoiakim in the previous chapter. There is a certain religiosity there. His asking Jeremiah to pray for him, that is, to consult the LORD for him, speaks of this (Jer 37:3). However, he uses the LORD only for his own interests, for he has no intention of obeying Him at all. Jeremiah is more of a predictor of the future to him than a prophet of God. He has consulted Jeremiah before, but has done nothing with what the latter has said to him on behalf of the LORD (Jer 21:1-10).
Jeremiah still has freedom of movement (Jer 37:4). The city is already in the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, but has rebelled. The armies of the king of Babylon are in front of the city. When the Chaldeans hear that Pharaoh’s army has come up from Egypt to liberate Jerusalem (Jer 37:7), they move away from Jerusalem to fight against Pharaoh (Jer 37:5).
Answer of Jeremiah
The going away of Nebuchadnezzar’s army gives the inhabitants of Jerusalem hope. However, that hope will prove to be vain. This is evident in the LORD’s word to Jeremiah (Jer 37:6). Jeremiah is to tell Zedekiah that Pharaoh’s army will return to Egypt (Jer 37:7). Therefore, they will not succeed in helping Jerusalem. On the contrary, Nebuchadnezzar’s army that has gone away will return to Jerusalem and take the city and burn it (Jer 37:8).
The LORD lets it be known once again that they must not deceive themselves with the deceptive words that the Chaldeans will go away, for they will not (Jer 37:9)! In fact, even though they themselves would fight against the Chaldean army and defeat it, and only a few gravely wounded Chaldean men would remain, those men would then carry out God’s purpose (Jer 37:10).
Jeremiah Charged With Treason
When the army of the Chaldeans has moved away from Jerusalem and the siege is lifted, there is freedom to go out of the city again (Jer 37:11). Jeremiah also uses that freedom, for he has an inheritance in Benjamin and he can now go and accept it (Jer 37:12).
But it turns out to be too early to take possession of it. In any case, he is stopped by the captain of the guard the moment he wants to go out of the city through the Gate of Benjamin (Jer 37:13). The Gate of Benjamin is so called because behind it is the road to the territory of Benjamin. The captain of the guard Irijah, the son of Shelemiah – and probably the brother of Jehucal (Jer 37:3) – arrests him and accuses him of wanting to defect to the Chaldeans. Jeremiah vigorously denies this, but his defense is in vain (Jer 37:14). Irijah arrests him and brings him to the officials, the leaders and judges of the city.
The officials are angry at Jeremiah (Jer 37:15). Without trial they beat him and put him in jail. That jail is the writer Jonathan’s house which they have made into a jail. If a scribe’s house has become a jail, it does indicate that the scribe is not a scribe who writes about the freedom of the LORD. It is in that house that Jeremiah, the prophet of the LORD, who had the words of the LORD written down, is imprisoned. This is his second captivity after an earlier short one (Jer 20:1-3).
Jeremiah is imprisoned because they hate his message. They hate him because he preaches the word of God. It is the perfect opportunity for them to silence this man. The accusation is fabricated, but they believe it themselves and find in it a motive to silence their conscience. It is like the opposition to the preaching of the apostles and prophets and especially to that of the Lord Jesus.
Jeremiah in Prison
Jeremiah stays “many days” in prison, in the deepest hidden and filthiest vaults of it (Jer 37:16). Then Zedekiah sends for him (Jer 37:17). He wants to know something from him. No one must know that he is talking to Jeremiah. That’s why it happens in his house, in secret. Zedekiah wants to know if there is a word from the LORD. By this he means a word favorable to him. Jeremiah’s answer sounds powerful that there is indeed a word. That word is now a personal word for Zedekiah and its content is that he will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon.
Despite the prison where he has been for many days now and which is a horror to him, Jeremiah speaks God’s words to Zedekiah. He does not detract from God’s message to free himself. He does not negotiate about it. That does not mean that he may not take the opportunity to ask the question of why he is in prison at the highest authority (Jer 37:18). He is not asking for pity, but for justice. Is Zedekiah also able to tell him what he has done wrong that he, Zedekiah, has put him in prison? In this he is like Joseph who also says that he is innocent in prison (Gen 40:14-15). He holds Zedekiah responsible for this.
He also asks him about his prophets who prophesied that the king of Babylon will not go against him and the land (Jer 37:19). Where are they now with their big mouth? Surely Zedekiah has seen with his own eyes that he has come? If so, let the king listen to him for once, to his request not to have to go back to the house of the Jonathan the scribe, that terrible prison, so that he will not die there (Jer 37:20). It is an ironic situation. The false prophets of the lies that have been so clearly exposed are walking free around and the true prophet whose words have been so clearly proven true is in prison.
Zedekiah allows his request, but he does not release him, although he is convinced of Jeremiah’s innocence (Jer 37:21). He is spiritually very much akin to Pilate who also condemns the Lord Jesus against his better judgment (Lk 23:22-24). For Jeremiah, it is a relief that he does not have to return to his old prison. He is still in secure custody, but also assured of bread that he receives every day from the bakers’ street, until there is no more bread. He will stay there until the Babylonians free him.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 37". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12