Keil and Delitzsch OT 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.The account of what befell Jeremiah and what he did during the last siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, until the taking of the city, is introduced, Jeremiah 37:1 and Jeremiah 37:2, with the general remark that Zedekiah - whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had made king in the land of Judah in place of Coniah (on which name see on Jeremiah 22:24) - when he became king, did not listen to the words of the Lord through Jeremiah, neither himself, nor his servants (officers), nor the people of the land (the population of Judah). Then follows, Jeremiah 37:3-10, a declaration of the prophet regarding the issue of the siege, which he sent to the king by the messengers who were to beseech him for his intercession with the Lord. Jeremiah 37:3-5. The occasion of this declaration was the following: Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah two of his chief officers, Jehucal the son of Shelemiah (see on Jeremiah 38:1), and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest (see Jeremiah 21:1 and Jeremiah 29:25), with this charge: "Pray now for us to Jahveh our God." This message was sent to Jeremiah while he still went in and out among the people, and had not yet been put in prison (כּליא, Jeremiah 37:4 and Jeremiah 52:31, an unusual form for כּלא, Jeremiah 37:15 and Jeremiah 37:18, for which the Qeri would have us in both instances read כּלוּא); the army of Pharaoh (Hophra, Jeremiah 44:30), too, had marched out of Egypt to oppose the Chaldeans; and the latter, when they heard the report of them (שׁמעם, the news of their approach), had withdrawn from Jerusalem (עלה מעל, see on Jeremiah 21:2), viz., in order to repulse the Egyptians. Both of these circumstances are mentioned for the purpose of giving a clear view of the state of things: (a) Jeremiah's freedom to go in and out, not to prepare us for his imprisonment afterwards, but to explain the reason why the king sent two chief officers of the realm to him, whereas, after his imprisonment, he caused him to be brought (cf. Jeremiah 37:17 with Jeremiah 38:14); and (b) the approach of the Egyptians joined with the raising of the siege, because this event seemed to afford some hope that the city would be saved. - This occurrence, consequently, falls within a later period than that mentioned in Jeremiah 21:1-14.
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.
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.
Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison.
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.
Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying,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.
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.
And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire.
Thus saith the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart.
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.
And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's army,The imprisonment of Jeremiah. - During the time when the Chaldeans, on account of the advancing army of pharaoh, had withdrawn from Jerusalem and raised the siege, "Jeremiah went out of the city to go to the land of Benjamin, in order to bring thence his portion among the people." והיה, in accordance with later usage, for ויהי, as in Jeremiah 3:9; cf. Ewald, 345, b. לחלק is explained in various ways. לחלק for להחליק can scarcely have any other meaning than to share, receive a share; and in connection with משּׁם, "to receive a portion thence," not, to receive an inheritance (Syr., Chald., Vulg.), for משּׁם does not suit this meaning. The lxx render τοῦ ἀγοράσαι ἐκεῖθεν, which Theodoret explains by πρίασθαι ἄρτους. All other explanations have still less in their favour. We must connect בּתוך העם with 'ללכת וגו, since it is unsuitable for לחלק משּׁם.
Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.
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.When he was entering the gate of Benjamin, where Jeriah the son of Shelemiah kept watch, the latter seized him, saying, "Thou desirest to go over to the Chaldeans" (נפל אל־, see on Jeremiah 21:9). The gate of Benjamin (Jeremiah 38:7; Jeremiah 14:10) was the north gate of the city, through which ran the road to Benjamin and Ephraim; hence it was also called the gate of Ephraim, 2 Kings 14:13; Nehemiah 8:16. בּעל, "holder of the oversight," he who kept the watch, or commander of the watch at the gate. "The accusation was founded on the well-known views and opinions of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 21:9); but it was mere sophistry, for the simple reason that the Chaldeans were no longer lying before the city" (Hitzig).
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.Jeremiah replied: "A lie [ equals not true; cf. 2 Kings 9:12]; I am not going over to the Chaldeans. But he gave no heed to him; so Jeriah seized Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. Jeremiah 37:15. And the princes were angry against Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison, in the house of Jonathan the scribe; for they had made it the prison," - probably because it contained apartments suitable for the purpose. From Jeremiah 37:16 we perceive that they were subterranean prisons and vaults into which the prisoners were thrust; and from v. 28 and Jeremiah 38:26, it is clear that Jeremiah was in a confinement much more severe and dangerous to his life. There he sat many days, i.e., a pretty long time.
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.
When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days;Examination of the prophet by the king, and alleviation of his confinement. - Jeremiah 37:16. "When Jeremiah had got into the dungeon and into the vaults, and had sat there many days, then Zedekiah the king sent and fetched him, and questioned him in his own house (palace) secretly," etc. Jeremiah 37:16 is by most interpreters joined with the foregoing, but the words כּי בּא do not properly permit of this. For if we take the verse as a further confirmation of ויּקצפוּ השׂרים, "the princes vented their wrath on Jeremiah, beat him," etc., "for Jeremiah came...," then it must be acknowledged that the account would be very long and lumbering. כּי בּא is too widely separated from יקצפוּ. But the passages, 1 Samuel 2:21, where כּי פּקד is supposed to stand for ויּפקד, and Isaiah 39:1, where ויּשׁמע is thought to have arisen out of כּי, 2 Kings 20:12, are not very strong proofs, since there, as here, no error in writing is marked. The Vulgate has itaque ingressus; many therefore would change כּי into כּן; but this also is quite arbitrary. Accordingly, with Rosenmller, we connect Jeremiah 37:16 with the following, and take כּי as a temporal particle; in this, the most we miss is ו copulative, or ויהי. In the preceding sentence the prison of the prophet is somewhat minutely described, in order to prepare us for the request that follows in Jeremiah 37:20. Jeremiah was in a בּית־בּור, "house of a pit," cf. Exodus 12:29, i.e., a subterranean prison, and in החניּות. This word only occurs here; but in the kindred dialects it means vaults, stalls, shops; hence it possibly signifies here subterranean prison-cells, so that אל־החניּות more exactly determines what בּית־הבּור is. This meaning of the word is, at any rate, more certain than that given by Eb. Scheid in Rosenmller, who renders חניות by flexa, curvata; then, supplying ligna, he thinks of the stocks to which the prisoners were fastened. - The king questioned him בּסּתר, "in secret," namely, through fear of his ministers and court-officers, who were prejudiced against the prophet, perhaps also in the hope of receiving in a private interview a message from God of more favourable import. To the question of the king, "Is there any word from Jahveh?" Jeremiah replies in the affirmative; but the word of God is this, "Thou shalt be given into the hand of the king of Babylon," just as Jeremiah had previously announced to him; cf. Jeremiah 32:4; Jeremiah 34:3. - Jeremiah took this opportunity of complaining about his imprisonment, saying, Jeremiah 37:18, "In what have I sinned against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison? Jeremiah 37:19. And where are your prophets, who prophesied to you, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?" Jeremiah appeals to his perfect innocence (Jeremiah 37:18), and to the confirmation of his prediction by its event. The interview with the king took place when the Chaldeans, after driving the Egyptians out of the country, had recommenced the siege of Jerusalem, and, as is evident from Jeremiah 37:21, were pressing the city very hard. The Kethib איו is to be read איּו, formed from איּה with the suffix וׁ; the idea of the suffix has gradually become obscured, so that it stands here before a noun in the plural. The Qeri requires איּה. The question, Where are your prophets? means, Let these prophets come forward and vindicate their lying prophecies. Not what these men had prophesied, but what Jeremiah had declared had come to pass; his imprisonment, accordingly, was unjust. - Besides thus appealing to his innocence, Jeremiah, Jeremiah 37:20, entreats the king, "Let my supplication come before thee, and do not send me back into the house of Jonathan the scribe, that I may not die there." For 'תּפּל־נא ת see on Jeremiah 36:7. The king granted this request. "He commanded, and they put Jeremiah into the court of the watch [of the royal palace, see on Jeremiah 32:2], and gave him a loaf of bread daily out of the bakers' street, till all the bread in the city was consumed;" cf. Jeremiah 52:6. The king did not give him his liberty, because Jeremiah held to his views, that were so distasteful to the king (see on Jeremiah 32:3). "So Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard."
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.
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?
Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?
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.
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.