Zedekiah was made king by Nebuchadnezzar and for three years served him, but then rebelled. The Chaldeans encamped around Jerusalem and there seemed no way out. Zedekiah sought help from Egypt and as Pharaohs army approached, the Chaldeans left. But the word of the Lord had already been given and is now repeated, in Jeremiah 37:9 “the Chaldeans will return … ‘You must not deceive yourselves, saying, “Surely the Chaldeans will go from us,” for they will not go”. As Jeremiah is imprisoned, we see the factions among the leaders of Israel, and the fear of the king, not of the Chaldeans, but of his own people who he has mistreated.
You Must Not Deceive Yourselves
The Lord had been speaking through Jeremiah but no one had been listening in
Jeremiah 37:2 “But he (Zedekiah) and his servants and the people of the land did not listen to the words of Yahweh that he spoke by the hand of Jeremiah the prophet”.
But the Chaldeans were encamped around Jerusalem in Jeremiah 37:5 and Zedekiah had sent for help from Pharaoh so Zedekiah the king wanted to know if God was for them. And even more, the king wanted an intercessor because he sends this request in Jeremiah 37:3 “Please pray for us to Yahweh our God”.
As they are coming to inquire, news comes that Pharaoh is on his way with his army in Jeremiah 37:5 and the Chaldeans “withdrew from Jerusalem”. but the word of the Lord comes in
Jeremiah 37:7–9 “the army of Pharaoh, which set out to help you, is going to return to his land Egypt. 8 And the Chaldeans will return … ‘You must not deceive yourselves, saying, “Surely the Chaldeans will go from us,” for they will not go.
The Officials Were Angry at Jeremiah
The Chaldeans backed off in Jeremiah 37:22, Jerusalem was no longer under siege. In
Jeremiah 37:12 “Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin to receive a portion from there in the midst of the people”.
This is a perfectly reasonable thing for him to do, as anyone that had been trapped in the city would want to do. Note here that earlier, we read of “the purchase of Hanamel’s field (which) expresses hope for Yahweh’s restoration of Judah following the Exile: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land” (Jer 32:15). (and that ) The purchase of Hanamel’s field occurs according to the right of redemption (Lev 25:25)”.1
So, Jeremiah has a place outside the city where he could live, and certainly where he could “receive a portion” of whatever harvest there might be there. But as he got to the gate to leave the city, he was seized by one of the guards and accused of being a deserter in Jeremiah 37:13 and he was placed in prison in Jeremiah 37:15 and “came to the dungeon … and Jeremiah stayed there many days”.
Surely This City Will be Given
All of the leaders of the city heard what in
Jeremiah 38:1–3 “Jeremiah was saying to all the people, saying, 2 “Thus says Yahweh, ‘The one who stays in this city will die by the sword, by the famine, and by the plague. But the one who goes out to the Chaldeans will live. And his life will be for him as booty, and he will live.’ 3 Thus says Yahweh, ‘Surely this city will be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon, and he will capture it.’ ”
So they went to the king saying in Jeremiah 37:4 “this man must be killed, because he is making slack the hands of the soldiers”. But they only maintained this position because they were rebelling against the word of the Lord and refused to give up the city. But the king is not able or willing to stand against these men so says in
Jeremiah 38:5 “And Zedekiah the king said, “Look, he is in your hand, for the king is not able to do a thing against you.””
Surrender to the Officials of the King of Babylon
But later, the king sends others to rescue Jeremiah from the pit in Jeremiah 37:10. Then has Jeremiah brought to him secretly in Jeremiah 37:14. Jeremiah is unaware of the factions in leadership and thinks the king wants to kill him in Jeremiah 37:15. But the king promises protection in Jeremiah 37:16 and then gives the king a simple and straight forward message from the Lord, surrender, in
Jeremiah 38:17–18 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says Yahweh, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘If only you will go surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then ⌊you⌋ will live, and this city will not be burned with fire, and you will live, you and your house. 18 But if you do not go surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city will be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they will burn it with fire, and you will not escape from their hand.’ ”
The king is afraid in Jeremiah 37:19 but not of the Chaldeans, he is afraid of “the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest they (the Chaldeans) give me into their hand (the Judeans) and they abuse me”.
So, Zedekiah is more afraid of his own people than of the king of Babylon who he has betrayed by going for help to Egypt. And we might understand this by reading a little more about Zedekiah as king where we find how abusive he was to his people. It is said in
2 Kings 24:19 “He did evil in the eyes of Yahweh just like all that Jehoiakim had done”.
And “Jehoiakim is accused of having “eyes and heart only for dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practising oppression and violence” (Jer 22:15–17 [RSV]; cf. 2 Kgs 24:4). The oracle Jer 22:13–19 provides a concrete example of Jehoiakim’s avarice, arrogance, and oppressive rule”.2
You Will be Seized and This City Will Burn With Fire
Because They Acted Very Unfaithfully
- Jeremiah 37:1–10 You Must Not Deceive Yourselves
- Jeremiah 37:11–21 The Officials Were Angry at Jeremiah
- Jeremiah 38:10–19 Surrender to the Officials of the King of Babylon
- Jeremiah 37:1-21
- Jeremiah 38:1-28
- Ezekiel 15:1-8
- 1. Bracke, J. M. (1992). Hanamel (Person). In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 3, p. 43). New York: Doubleday.
- 2. Berridge, J. M. (1992). Jehoiakim (Person). In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 3, p. 665). New York: Doubleday.