Study of Jeremiah, Chapters 37-38 A Relationship

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We have all found ourselves in a relationship that asks a lot but offers very little.  Sometimes, we are not always on the receiving end of this type of relationship.  Many times, people see a particular ‘gain’ from being in a relationship; their sole purpose is the benefits that come from that relationship, not the relationship itself.

Jeremiah 37:1-4Jeremiah 37:1-4
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

37 1 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. 2 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. by...: Heb. by the hand of the prophet 3 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. 4 Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison.  

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1 Zedekiah son of Josiah succeeded Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim as the king of Judah.  He was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  2 But neither King Zedekiah nor his attendants nor the people who were left in the land listened to what the LORD said through Jeremiah.
3 Nevertheless, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, son of Maaseiah, to ask Jeremiah, “Please pray to the LORD our God for us.”  4 Jeremiah had not yet been imprisoned, so he could come and go among the people as he pleased.

**** There is eighteen years between the events in chapter 36 and 37.  If you remember the prophesy of Jeremiah in verse 30, chapter 36, King Jehoiakim had burned the scroll of Jeremiah’s prophesies.  In return, God had promised that he would not have any heirs sit on the throne of David, and his body would be thrown out to lie unburied.  The expression ‘throne of David’ implies permanence.  Zedekiah, who was a brother of Jehoiakim, was placed on the throne instead of Jehoiakin.  It was Nebuchadnezzar who mad Zedekiah king after Jehoiachin was taken to Babylon after being on the throne for three, short months****

King Zedekiah, nor his officials or attendants, were interested in listening to Jeremiah’s words, but they wanted him to pray to God for them.  They were looking for a relationship with God where they could get all the benefits, but there would be no cost to themselves.  Is there anyone that you know that has that way of thinking?  They live their own life the way that they want to live, following the ways of the world, but then question why God has answered their prayers?  We must always remember that answer to prayer is not always what we expect it to be.  Isaiah 55:8Isaiah 55:8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  

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tells us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways.

Jeremiah 37:5Jeremiah 37:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 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.  

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5 At this time the army of Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt appeared at the southern border of Judah.  When the Babylonian army heard about it, they withdrew from their siege of Jerusalem.

[At this point, Jeremiah is still free to come and go as he pleases.]  King Zedekiah has invited the Pharaoh of Egypt to fight against the Babylonians.  The king has turned to Egypt for help instead of listening to Jeremiah’s message from God.  This measure only caused the Babylonians to retreat temporarily from overtaking Jerusalem (588 B.C.). The Babylonians would soon defeat the Egyptians, and return to the attack on Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 37:6-10Jeremiah 37:6-10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

6 Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying, 7 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to enquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh's army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land. 8 And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire. 9 Thus saith the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. yourselves: Heb. your souls 10 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. wounded: Heb. thrust through  

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6 Then the LORD gave this message to Jeremiah:  7 “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says:  The king of Judah sent you to ask me what is going to happen.  Tell him, ‘Pharaoh’s army is about to return to Egypt though he came here to help you.  8 Then the Babylonians will come back and capture this city and burn it to the ground.’
9 “This is what the LORD says:  Do not fool yourselves into thinking that the Babylonians are gone for good.  They aren’t!  10 Even if you were to destroy the entire Babylonian army, leaving only a handful of wounded survivors, they would still stagger from their tents and burn this city to the ground!”

God responds to Jeremiah’s prayers on behalf of King Zedekiah.  Jerusalem will be destroyed, regardless of the additional help they had recruited from Egypt.  There were not any reinforcements that King Zedekiah could call on that would stop the destruction from happening. God had warned them many times, but they wouldn’t listen.

Jeremiah 37:11-16Jeremiah 37:11-16
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's army, broken...: Heb. made to ascend 12 Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people. separate...: or, to slip away from thence in the midst of the people 13 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. 14 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. false: Heb. falsehood, or, a lie 15 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. 16 When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days; cabins: or, cells  

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11 When the Babylonian army left Jerusalem because of Pharaoh’s approaching army, 12 Jeremiah started to leave the city on his way to the territory of Benjamin, to claim his share of the property among his relatives there.  13 But as he was walking through the Benjamin Gate, a sentry arrested him and said, “You are defecting to the Babylonians!”  The sentry making the arrest was Irijah son of Shelemiah, grandson of Hananiah.
14 “That’s not true!” Jeremiah protested. “I had no intention of doing any such thing.” But Irijah wouldn’t listen, and he took Jeremiah before the officials.  15 They were furious with Jeremiah and had him flogged and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary.  Jonathan’s house had been converted into a prison.  16 Jeremiah was put into a dungeon cell, where he remained for many days.

During the break in the attack by the Babylonians, Jeremiah heads off to take possession of the field that he purchased.  But on his way he was arrested as being a deserter to the Babylonians.  He denied this claim, but was still apprehended and taken before the officials. They had him beaten and put in prison.

Jeremiah 37:17-21Jeremiah 37:17-21
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 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. 18 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? 19 Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land? 20 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. let...: Heb. let my supplication fall 21 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.  

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17 Later King Zedekiah secretly requested that Jeremiah come to the palace, where the king asked him, “Do you have any messages from the LORD?”
“Yes, I do!” said Jeremiah.  “You will be defeated by the king of Babylon.”
18 Then Jeremiah asked the king, “What crime have I committed?  What have I done against you, your attendants, or the people that I should be imprisoned like this?  19 Where are your prophets now who told you the king of Babylon would not attack you or this land?  20 Listen, my lord the king, I beg you.  Don’t send me back to the dungeon in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for I will die there.”
21 So King Zedekiah commanded that Jeremiah not be returned to the dungeon.  Instead, he was imprisoned in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace.  The king also commanded that Jeremiah be given a loaf of fresh bread every day as long as there was any left in the city.  So Jeremiah was put int the palace prison.

King Zedekiah calls for Jeremiah, but this time in secrecy.  Could there be a conviction on his heart?  Jeremiah, once again, shares God’s message with the king.  It didn’t matter whether they were secretly meeting, or meeting in public, the message remained the same: the city would be destroyed.
Jeremiah also requests to know exactly what it is that he has done wrong that would allow such inhumane treatment.  Zedekiah overturns the officials decision and has Jeremiah imprisoned in the guard’s courtyard.  He also adds that Jeremiah should receive a daily loaf of bread, if available.



I was once involved in a lawsuit as a witness.  Several times I had been called before the Grand Jury and asked the same question.  Each time, my answer was the same, but apparently was not the answer that they were looking for.  They would have me sit on an elevated platform.  They would be in front of me, sitting behind a long table.  Over and over again, they would repeat the question.  Over and over again, I would give them the same answer.  After the third time appearing before the Grand Jury, they stopped requesting my presence.  Most times when we ask a question, we already have an expectation of what we want to hear, but what we want to hear is not the answer that is given.

Jeremiah 38:1-5Jeremiah 38:1-5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

38 1 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, 2 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. 3 Thus saith the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it. 4 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. welfare: Heb. peace 5 Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.  

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1 Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah had been telling the people.  He had been saying, 2 “This is what the LORD says:  ‘Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, famine, or disease, but those who surrender to the Babylonians will live.  Their reward will be life.  They will live!’  3 The LORD also says:  ‘The city of Jerusalem will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.'”
4 So these officials went to the king and said, “Sir, this man must die!  That kind of talk will undermine the morale of the few fighting men we have left, as well as that of all the people.  This man is a traitor!”
5 King Zedekiah agreed. “All right, ” he said.  “Do as you like. I can’t stop you.”

Wow!  This king was something, wasn’t he?  He listened to everybody!  One minute, he is requesting prayer from Jeremiah, the next minute, he is giving permission to his officials to have Jeremiah killed, and then the next minute, as we shall see, he is rescuing Jeremiah.  King Zedekiah was not a strong leader, nor was he able to stand up to his officials.  No wonder Judah was in the shape it was!  Jeremiah’s message wasn’t popular with the army or the people of Judah.  Jeremiah was accused of delivering talk that would harm moral, and King Zedekiah was having a difficult time deciding between the public opinion or God’s will.

Jeremiah 38:6-13Jeremiah 38:6-13
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

6 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. of Hammelech: or, of the king 7 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; 8 Ebedmelech went forth out of the king's house, and spake to the king, saying, 9 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. he is like...: Heb. he will die 10 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. with thee: Heb. in thine hand 11 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. 12 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. 13 So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.  

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6 So the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard.  It belonged to Malkijah, a member of the royal family.  There was no water in the cistern, but there was a thick layer of mud at the bottom, and Jeremiah sank down into it.
7 But Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an important court official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern.  At that time the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate, 8 so Ebed-melech rushed from the palace to speak with him.  9 “My lord the king,” he said, “these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern.  He will soon die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.”
10 So the king told Ebed-melech, “Take thirty of my men with you, and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.”
11 So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to a room in the palace beneath the treasury, where he found some old rags and discarded clothing.  He carried these to the cistern and lowered them to Jeremiah on a rope.  12 Ebed-melech called down to Jeremiah, “Put these rags under your armpits to protect you from the ropes.”  Then when Jeremiah was ready, 13 they pulled him out.  So Jeremiah was returned to the courtyard of the guard – the palace prison – where he remained.

Jeremiah spent 40 years revealing God’s message but never received anything but persecution.  Are we willing to do the same?  When the chips are down, and we are faced with alienation or persecution for God, will we stand?  Ebed-melech feared God more than man.  He was the only one of the officials that was willing to stand up against the plot to murder Jeremiah.  In chapter 39:15-19, we will see that his life will be spared because he obeyed.  When we are faced with conflicting situations, we can either stand with the crowd, or we can stand with God.  What stand will you take?

Jeremiah 38:14-23Jeremiah 38:14-23
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 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. third: or, principal 15 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? 16 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. 17 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: 18 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. 19 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. 20 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. 21 But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the LORD hath shewed me: 22 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. Thy friends: Heb. Men of thy peace 23 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. thou shalt cause...: Heb. thou shalt burn, etc  

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14 One day King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah and had him brought to the third entrance of the LORD’S Temple.  “I want to ask you something,” the king said.  “And don’t try to hide the truth.”
15 Jeremiah said, “If I tell you the truth, you will kill me.  And if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway.”
16 So King Zedekiah secretly promised him, “As surely as the LORD our Creator lives, I will not kill you or hand you over to the men who want you dead.”
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says:  ‘If you surrender to the Babylonian officers, you and your family will live, and the city will not be burned down.  18 But if you refuse to surrender, you will not escape!  This city will be handed over tot he Babylonians, and they will burn it to the ground.'”
19 “But I am afraid to surrender,” the king said, “for the Babylonians may hand me over to the Judeans who have defected to them.  And who knows what they will do to me!”
20 Jeremiah replied, “You won’t be handed over to them if you choose to obey the LORD.  Your life will be spared, and all will go well for you.  21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the LORD has revealed to me:  22 All the women left in your palace will be brought out and given to the officers of the Babylonian army.  Then the women will taunt you, saying,
‘What fine friend you have!
They have betrayed and misled you.
When your feet sank in the mud,
they left you to your fate!’
23 All your wives and children will be led out to the Babylonians, and you will not escape.  You will be seized by the king of Babylon, and this city will be burned down.”

A third time, King Zedekiah requests the presence of Jeremiah.  He once again asks him the same question that Jeremiah has been answering, hoping that this time his answer will be different.  Jeremiah delivers the same message.  The king shares his fears with Jeremiah regarding his surrender, and Jeremiah assures him that his fears are unfounded.  He assures the king that his life will be spared and that all will go well for him.  He also informs the king of what he can look forward to if he refuses to listen to God and surrender.

Jeremiah 38:24-28Jeremiah 38:24-28
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die. 25 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: 26 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. 27 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. they...: Heb. they were silent from him 28 So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken.  

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24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Don’t tell anyone you told me this, or you will die!  25 My officials may hear that I spoke to you, and they may say, ‘Tell us what you and the king were talking about.  If you don’t tell us, we will kill you.’  26 If this happens, just tell them you begged me not to send you back to Jonathan’s dungeon, for fear you would die there.”
27 Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the king’s officials came to Jeremiah and asked him why the king had called for him.  But Jeremiah followed the king’s instructions, and they left without finding out the truth.  No one had overheard the conversation between Jeremiah and the king.  28 And Jeremiah remained a prisoner in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured.

Zedekiah already knew that his officials would be after Jeremiah for information about their meeting and ordered Jeremiah not to reveal the content of their conversation, but instead he was to tell the officials that he was begging the king to not send him back to Jonathan’s dungeon.
The officials did exactly as the king had said they would and asked Jeremiah what had transpired during his meeting with the king.  Jeremiah told them exactly what the king had ordered him to say.  The officials wanted information, but did not want the truth of God.  The information they were looking for was the kind that would go against God, Jeremiah, and the king.  We must be free with the message of God to others, but should withhold information if it will be used to bring evil against God’s people.

Written by Mary Hudak-Collins

Mary Hudak-Collins

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