Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Jer 37:1-21. Historical Sections, Thirty-seventh through Forty-fourth Chapters. The Chaldeans Raise the Siege to Go and Meet Pharaoh-hophra. Zedekiah Sends to Jeremiah to Pray to God in Behalf of the Jews: in Vain, Jeremiah Tries to Escape to His Native Place, but Is Arrested. Zedekiah Abates the Rigor of His Imprisonment.
1. Coniah—curtailed from Jeconiah by way of reproach.
whom—referring to Zedekiah, not to Coniah (2Ki 24:17).
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.
2. Amazing stupidity, that they were not admonished by the punishment of Jeconiah [Calvin], (2Ch 36:12, 14)!
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.
3. Zedekiah … sent—fearing lest, in the event of the Chaldeans overcoming Pharaoh-hophra, they should return to besiege Jerusalem. See on Jer 21:1; that chapter chronologically comes in between the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth chapter. The message of the king to Jeremiah here in the thirty-seventh chapter is, however, somewhat earlier than that in the twenty-first chapter; 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 Jer 38:1, 2, as hearing Jeremiah's reply, which is identical with that in Jer 21:9, it is probable the two messages followed one another at a short interval; that in this Jer 37:3, and the answer, Jer 37:7-10, being the earlier of the two.
Zephaniah—an abettor of rebellion against God (Jer 29:25), though less virulent than many (Jer 29:29), punished accordingly (Jer 52:24-27).
Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison.
4. Jeremiah … not put … into prison—He was no longer in the prison court, as he had been (Jer 32:2; 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which passages refer to the beginning of the siege, not to the time when the Chaldeans renewed the siege, after having withdrawn for a time to meet Pharaoh.
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.
5. After this temporary diversion, caused by Pharaoh in favor of Jerusalem, the Egyptians returned no more to its help (2Ki 24:7). 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 (2Ki 23:29). Zedekiah, seeking the Egyptian alliance in violation of his oath, was now about to be taken by Nebuchadnezzar (2Ch 36:13; Eze 17:15, 17).
Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying,
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.
7. shall return—without accomplishing any deliverance for you.
And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire.
8. (Jer 34:22).
Thus saith the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart.
9. yourselves—Hebrew, "souls."
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.
10. yet … they—Even a few wounded men would suffice for your destruction.
And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's army,
11. broken up—"gone up."
Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.
12. Benjamin—to his own town, Anathoth.
to separate himself—Margin translates, "to slip away," 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 dishonorable 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 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].
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.
13. ward—that is, the "guard," or "watch."
Hananiah—whose death Jeremiah predicted (Jer 28:16). The grandson in revenge takes Jeremiah into custody on the charge of deserting ("thou fallest away," Jer 38:19; 52:15; 1Sa 29:3) to the enemy. His prophecies gave color to the charge (Jer 21:9; 38:4).
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.
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.
15. scribe—one of the court secretaries; often in the East part of the private house of a public officer serves as a prison.
When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days;
16. dungeon … cabins—The prison consisted of a pit (the "dungeon") with vaulted cells round the sides of it. The "cabins," from a root, "to bend one's self."
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.
17. secretly—Zedekiah was ashamed to be seen by his courtiers consulting Jeremiah (Joh 12:43; 5:44; 19:38).
thou shalt be delivered—Had Jeremiah consulted his earthly interests, he would have answered very differently. Contrast Jer 6:14; Isa 30:10; Eze 13:10.
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?
18. What—In what respect have I offended?
Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?
19. Where are now your prophets—The event has showed them to be liars; and, as surely as the king of Babylon has come already, notwithstanding their prophecy, so surely shall he return.
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.
20. be accepted—rather, "Let my supplication be humbly presented" (see on Jer 36:7), [Henderson].
lest I die there—in the subterranean dungeon (Jer 37:16), from want of proper sustenance (Jer 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].
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.
21. court of the prison—(Jer 32:2; 38:13, 28).
bakers' street—Persons in the same business in cities in the East commonly reside in the same street.
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 Jer 38:9; that time must have been very shortly before the capture of the city (Jer 52:6). God saith of His children, "In the days of famine they shall be satisfied" (Ps 37:19; Isa 33:16). Honest reproof (Jer 37:17), in the end often gains more favor than flattery (Pr 28:23).