Jeremiah 38
Clarke's Commentary
The princes of Judah, taking offense at Jeremiah on account of his predicting the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Chaldeans, cause him to be cast into a deep and miry dungeon, Jeremiah 38:1-6. Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian, gets the king's permission to take him out, Jeremiah 38:7-13. Jeremiah advises the king, who consulted him privately, to surrender to the Chaldeans, Jeremiah 38:14-23. The king promises the prophet that he will not put him to death, and requires him not to reveal what had passed to the princes; to whom he accordingly gives an evasive answer, telling them only so much of the conference as related to his request for his life, Jeremiah 38:24-28.

Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying,
Then Shephatiah - This was the faction - what Dahler terms the Antitheocratic faction - who were enemies to Jeremiah, and sought his life.

Thus saith the LORD, He that remaineth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live.
Thus saith the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it.
This city shall surely be given - This was a testimony that be constantly bore: he had the authority of God for it. He knew it was true, and he never wavered nor equivocated.

Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.
Let this man be put to death - And they gave their reasons plain enough: but the proof was wanting.

Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.
He is in your hand - Ye have power to do as you please; I must act by your counsel. Poor weak prince! you respect the prophet, you fear the cabal, and you sacrifice an innocent man to your own weakness and their malice!

Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.
So Jeremiah sunk in the mire - Their obvious design was, that he might be stifled in that place.

Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin;
Ebed-melech - The servant of the king one of the eunuchs who belonged to the palace. Perhaps it should be read, "Now, a servant of the king, a Cushite, one of the eunuchs," etc.

The king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin - To give audience, and to administer justice. We have often seen that the gates of cities were the places of public judicature.

Ebedmelech went forth out of the king's house, and spake to the king, saying,
My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city.
My lord the king, these men have done evil - He must have been much in the king's confidence, and a humane and noble spirited man, thus to have raised his voice against the powerful cabal already mentioned.

There is no more bread in the city - They had defended it to the last extremity; and it appears that bread had been afforded to the prophet according to the king's commandment, as long as there was any remaining. See Jeremiah 36:21.

Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die.
Take from hence thirty men - The king was determined that he should be rescued by force, if the princes opposed.

So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah.
Went into the house of the king - and took thence - The eastern kings had their wardrobes always well furnished; as garments were a usual present to ambassadors, etc. I cannot think that, in the proper acceptation of the words, these were in any part of the king's house.

Old cast clouts, and old rotten rags - The fact seems to be this: there were several garments that had been used, and would not be used again; and there were others which, through continuing long there, had by insects, etc., been rendered useless. These he took, tied to the cord, let down to the prophet, that he might roll them round the ropes, and place them under his arm-pits, so that in being hauled up he might not suffer injury from the ropes, which in this case must sustain the whole weight of his body.

And Ebedmelech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine armholes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so.
So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.
Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third entry that is in the house of the LORD: and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me.
Into the third entry - A place to enter which two others must be passed through.

Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me?
So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the LORD liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.
As the Lord liveth, that made us this soul - He is the living God, and he is the Author of that life which each of us possesses; and as sure as he lives, and we live by him, I will not put thee to death, nor give thee into the hands of those men who seek thy life. A very solemn oath; and the first instance on record of the profane custom of swearing by the soul.

Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; If thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house:
Wilt assuredly go - On the king's obedience to the advice of the prophet the safety of the city depended.

Unto the king of Babylon's princes - The generals of the army then returning to the siege from the defeat of the Egyptians; for Nebuchadnezzar himself was then at Riblah, in Syria, Jeremiah 39:5, Jeremiah 39:6.

But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon's princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand.
And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.
They mock me - Insult me, and exhibit me in triumph.

But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live.
But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the LORD hath shewed me:
And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah's house shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon's princes, and those women shall say, Thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee: thy feet are sunk in the mire, and they are turned away back.
All the women - brought forth - I think this place speaks of a kind of defection among the women of the harem; many of whom had already gone forth privately to the principal officers of the Chaldean army, and made the report mentioned in the end of this verse. These were the concubines or women of the second rank.

So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans: and thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon: and thou shalt cause this city to be burned with fire.
They shall bring out all thy wives and thy children - These were the women of the first rank, by whom the king had children. These had no temptation to go out to the Chaldeans, nor would they have been made welcome; but the others being young, and without children, would be well received by the Chaldean princes.

Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die.
But if the princes hear that I have talked with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king, hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; also what the king said unto thee:
Then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan's house, to die there.
I presented my supplication - This was telling the truth, and nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth. The king did not wish him to defile his conscience, nor did he propose any thing that was not consistent with the truth.

Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and asked him: and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded. So they left off speaking with him; for the matter was not perceived.
The matter was not perceived - They did not question him farther; and the king's commandment to remove him from the house of Jonathan being well known, they took for granted that they had all the information that they sought. And he was most certainly not obliged to relate any thing that might embroil this weak king with his factious but powerful princes, or affect his own life. He related simply what was necessary, and no more.

So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken.
Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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