Jeremiah 37:15
Why 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.
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(15) The princes . . . put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe.—The house was probably chosen as being under the direct control of one who, as scribe, exercised functions like those of a minister of police. It had not only the subterranean dungeon and pit common to all Eastern prisons, but separate “cabins” or cells (the Hebrew word does not occur elsewhere) for the confinement of individual prisoners (Jeremiah 37:16). Of the severity with which the prophet was treated there, we may judge from his entreaty not to be taken back there after his release (Jeremiah 38:26). We have fairly adequate data for measuring the duration of the “many days” of his imprisonment. It began before the second siege of Jerusalem, which lasted for nearly two years (2Kings 25:1-3), and when the city was taken he was still in the court of the prison. The incidents of Jeremiah 32-34 belong to this period.

Jeremiah 37:15. Wherefore the princes were wroth — These princes seem to have been much more hostile to the prophet than those that were in the time of Jehoiakim, (see Jeremiah 36:19,) for they proceed here merely upon the captain’s information, and, treating him as guilty, without any proof, cruelly cause him to be beaten, though entirely innocent, and put into a most miserable dungeon. In the house of Jonathan the scribe — “There is nothing extraordinary,” says Blaney, “in making the dwelling- house of a great man a prison, according to either the ancient or modern manners of the East: see Genesis 39:20; even in the royal palace itself we find there was a prison, chap. Jeremiah 32:2.” Mr. Harmer (chap. 8. obs. 37) quotes the following passage from a MS. of Sir John Chardin: — “The eastern prisons are not public buildings erected for that purpose; but a part of the house in which their criminal judges dwell. As the governor and provost of a town, or the captain of the watch, imprison such as are accused in their own houses, they set apart a canton of them for that purpose, when they are put into these offices, and choose for the jailer the most proper person they can find of their domestics.” Thus Mr. Harmer thinks that Jonathan’s house became a prison in consequence of his being a royal scribe, or, as we should term him, secretary of state.37:11-21 There are times when it is the wisdom of good men to retire, to enter into their chambers, and to shut the doors, Isa 26:20. Jeremiah was seized as a deserter, and committed to prison. But it is no new thing for the best friends of the church to be belied, as in the interests of her worst enemies. When thus falsely accused, we may deny the charge, and commit our cause to Him who judges righteously. Jeremiah obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful, and would not, to obtain mercy of man, be unfaithful to God or to his prince; he tells the king the whole truth. When Jeremiah delivered God's message, he spake with boldness; but when he made his own request, he spake submissively. A lion in God's cause must be a lamb in his own. And God gave Jeremiah favour in the eyes of the king. The Lord God can make even the cells of a prison become pastures to his people, and will raise up friends to provide for them, so that in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.The house - Probably the official residence of the secretary of state. 15. scribe—one of the court secretaries; often in the East part of the private house of a public officer serves as a prison. These princes seem more fierce against the prophet than those that were in the time of Jehoiakim, for they proceed here upon the captain’s information, cause the prophet to be beaten, and send him to prison, a prison within the compass of the court, bad enough, as appeareth by Jeremiah’s complaint of his condition there to the king, Jeremiah 37:20, and by what followeth in the next verse. Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah,.... For attempting to depart the city, and go off to the Chaldeans, as Irijah had suggested to them, and to whom they hearkened; and perhaps would not hear what the prophet had to say for himself; and if they did, it had no weight with them:

and smote him; either with their fists, or with rods, or a scourge; perhaps he underwent the punishment of forty stripes save one, according to the law; and they may be said to smite or beat him, because they ordered it to be done:

and put him in prison, in the house of Jonathan the scribe; or secretary of state; such an one as Elishama was in Jehoiakim's time, who had a house or apartment at court as he had, who was now dead or removed, Jeremiah 36:12;

for they had made that the prison; which had not used to be; but by the courtiers, and with the consent of this scribe, secretary, or chancellor, it was made a prison; not for common malefactors, but for state prisoners; and a bad prison it seems it was. Very probably this scribe was a very cruel wicked man, who used those very ill that were his prisoners; and indeed, if he had not been of such a character, he would scarcely have suffered his house to have been made a prison.

Wherefore the princes were angry with Jeremiah, and beat him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the {h} prison.

(h) Because it was a vile and straight prison.

15. the princes were wroth with Jeremiah] These were not the princes who had looked upon the prophet with favour in the reign of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:16, Jeremiah 36:19). Those were now no doubt exiles, and these their successors, as thoroughly opposed to the Chaldaean rule, and sympathising with their compatriots of Babylon, had no favour to bestow upon Jeremiah. They would remember how he had likened them to evil figs (ch. 24), and had denounced their conduct towards their slaves (ch. 34).

Jonathan] Shaphan, the scribe of seventeen years before (Jeremiah 36:10), was now probably dead or among the exiles.Verse 15. - The princes were wroth with Jeremiah. As Graf has pointed out, the princes, who had evinced their respect for Jeremiah on former occasions (ch. 26, 36.) had probably shared the captivity of Jehoiachin; Zedekiah's "princes" would be of a lower origin and type, and ready (like the judges in the French "terror") to accept any charge against an unpopular person without proper examination. The house of Jonathan the scribe. "Scribe," i.e. one of the secretaries of state. The house of Jonathan seems to have been specially adapted for a prison, as the next verse shows. Chardin, the old traveller, remarks, "The Eastern prisons are not public buildings erected for that purpose, but a part of the house in which the criminal judges dwell. As the governor and provost of a town, or the captain of the watch, imprison such as are accused in their own houses, they set apart a canton of them for that purpose when they are put into these offices, and choose for the jailor the most proper person they can find of their domestics" (Chardin). Then came the word of the Lord to this effect: Jeremiah 37:7. "Thus saith Jahveh, the God of Israel: Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah who hath sent you to me to ask at me, Behold, the army of Pharaoh, which marched out to your help, will return to Egypt, their own land. Jeremiah 37:8. And the Chaldeans shall return and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire. Jeremiah 37:9. Thus saith Jahveh: Do not deceive yourselves by thinking, The Chaldeans will quite withdraw from us; for they will not withdraw. Jeremiah 37:10. For, even though he had beaten the whole army of the Chaldeans who are fighting with you, and there remained of them only some who had been pierced through and through, yet they would rise up, every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire." In order to cut off every hope, the prophet announces that the Egyptians will bring no help, but withdraw to their own land before the Chaldeans who went out to meet them, without having accomplished their object; but then the Chaldeans will return, continue the siege, take the city and burn it. To assure them of this, he adds: "Ye must not deceive yourselves with the vain hope that the Chaldeans may possibly be defeated and driven back by the Egyptians. The destruction of Jerusalem is so certain that, even supposing you were actually to defeat and repulse the Chaldeans, and only some few grievously wounded ones remained in the tents, these would rise up and burn the city." In הלוך ילכוּ the inf. abs. is to be observed, as strengthening the idea contained in the verb: "to depart wholly or completely;" הלך is here to "depart, withdraw." אנשׁים in contrast with חיל are separate individuals. מדקּר, pierced through by sword or lance, i.e., grievously, mortally wounded.
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